When people find out that my wife and I are the parents of triplets, we are reminded that our professors and managers were wrong; there are such things as stupid questions.   Consider the following questions/statements that are posed to us on a somewhat regular basis:
  1. “Are they natural?” No, they are synthetic.  This is sometimes asked as “did you have any help?” Of course people want to know if our kids were the result of fertility treatments.  I think you would agree that this is a pretty personal matter. As such, I think it is a stupid question.  And, for the record, I was once told that I have immature sperm, which, if you know me, you realize that this diagnosis is spot on.
  2. “Is it hard having triplets?” The stupidity of this question does not even dignify a response. How could it possibly be easy going from zero to three children in a matter of three minutes?
  3. “Well, better you than me.” Honestly, this is an insulting comment.  We love our kids and while it is hard to raise three kids of the same age, they bring us immeasurable joy.
One question, though, that I don’t mind so much is when people ask me “What was their first month like?”  When people ask it this way, it recognizes the obvious (that it must have been difficult) while at the same time shows that they have in interest in the kids as well.
What does this have to do with moderating?  I am getting to it!
Their first month of life was hectic. I was a zombie and my wife and I did not get much sleep – at all.  One day, I went to work and it wasn’t until noon when I realized I was wearing two completely different shoes; one suede shoe and one non-suede shoe.
I felt like such an ass.  I was completely self-conscious and felt as if all eyes were on me.  I literally did not leave my office for fear of being outed as the man with one suede shoe.
Remembering this makes me question how much of our behavior is on autopilot. Yet, it strikes me that for a living I constantly ask people to describe their behavior and explain it.  Under normal circumstances, I could not tell you what pair of shoes I wore yesterday – it would be a complete guess. However, I can tell you exactly which shoes I wore 8 years ago because of the suede shoe incident.
This makes me wonder, would I get more reliable information out of consumers if I asked them to change their behavior for a week leading up to an interview/discussion group.  For example, if I were doing groups for a shoe company and we were talking to loyalists of that manufacturer, would we be better off asking those consumers to stop wearing that brand for a full week in order to better explain the benefits they receive from those consumers? Perhaps tension can be a good thing.  What do you think?