Why? So harms demands of your career: The Nocebo effect

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Why? This question is too often over our lips. It is often not important to know why a thing behaves this way and not otherwise. Because time-consuming discussions can not always solve a problem. nocebo

Here writes for you:


Professor Dr. Martin-Niels Däfler Best of HR – Berufebilder.de®Prof. Dr. Martin-Niels Däfler teaches at the University of Economics and Management (FOM) in Frankfurt am Main.


From the author:




The Agent K motto

Admittedly, the headline is somewhat provocative. Of course, asking questions only hurts your career indirectly: For example, if you lose time with annoying discussions, which you would rather invest in finding solutions. True to the motto: "Do not ask questions you do not want to know the answer to".

This statement was made by Agent K in the movie Men in Black III. And should I tell you something? He's actually right: Not always asking questions really helps. You do not want to believe that, did you learn, we always have to ask critically? Below I explain why it behaves like this:

What we can learn from Men in Black

It is a gloomy autumn afternoon afternoon. My children, Niklas and Klara, urge me to insert a DVD. I would rather have read in my exciting thriller, but what do not do everything for the offspring. For this I can also determine which movie we are looking at.

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I decide for Men in Black III, after all, I've already seen the first two parts with the whimsical extraterrestrials and heartily laughed at it. So now again in the third continuation.

Do not ask questions that you do not want to know the answer to

While the credits are running, we discuss the film. Niklas was particularly impressed by the evil “Boris the Beast” that breaks out of a high-security alien prison on the moon.

Klara have especially liked the fast-paced sayings of Agent J (Will Smith). And me? I found a spot at the end of the film extremely remarkable, namely when the Alien Hunter Agent K, played by Tommy Lee Jones, gives his colleague the advice: "Don't ask questions you don't want to know the answer to."

Put the truth to the point

As I say so, the real dimension of this saying is revealed to me. How right Agent K has and how much substance is in this seemingly so taut sentence! Sometimes it can be better not to get to the bottom of things, but to accept a situation as it is.

Be careful: this is not an invitation to fatalism or repression. It is rather a matter of weighing up whether the answer or detailed information in any form helps. I'll tell you how to do that in the second part of my post tomorrow.

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Invest time and energy in solutions

If, for example, a delivery date is delayed, it is first of all completely unimportant to find out why there was a delay. It is much more important to soothe the customer. So instead of searching for the reasons, you should invest your time and energy in the search for solutions.

This recommendation is only valid if it is a one-time situation and the cause is irrelevant. If mistakes or omissions occur, however, it would be fatal to use the agent-K principle.

The nocebo effect

The agent K principle, named after the role of Tommy Lee Jones in the film Men in Black, I have already explained in the first part of the article. But it can be extended much further:

Am I really ready to bear the consequences of a possibly negative answer or do I prefer not to deal with the topic? In medicine, this is known as the “nocebo effect”.

What I do not know does not make me hot

Patients who do not know what side effects a treatment or drug may have, are also much less likely to suffer from it than those who have dealt with it in detail.

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The vernacular expresses the connection much more simply: “What I don't know doesn't make me hot.”

I do not even ask for the reasons

Here is an example from my work: Every now and then it happens that a student asks for the postponement of the appointment for a presentation. Usually this is only possible for good reasons. However, I have refused to ask why the appointment must be postponed.

I know very well that in most cases lack of time management is the cause. But why should I get involved in long-winded explanations, an eternally long one eMailTraffic, if I do not care So I do not ask and just allow the postponement of the appointment.

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