Arguing in an effective and persuasive way is not a skill I possess in abundance, particularly when the arguing and persuading involves (1) speaking rather than writing, and/or (2) meeting a solid wall of resistance from someone whose ego towers over mine.
For the past few months, I have been trying to persuade a Famous Science Guy to do a particular minor thing for the good of Science. This minor thing would involve very little of his time, but would involve his adjusting an inelegant technical detail that he has clung to for decades. If he changed or even just compromised a tiny bit, the world would be a better place and people in our field would rejoice at being able to cast off the cumbersome chains with which he has shackled all those who need to use a particular bit of software.
I have a reasonable working relationship with this person, but my first entreaties were met with a solid wall of resistance to his changing anything. I then sought the assistance of some friends and closer colleagues of his, as they were similarly convinced that he needed to make this change for the good of the scientific world, and they had similar lack of success. One of them told me recently, however, that after months of discussion with me and others, the Famous Science Guy (FSG) was finally coming around and might just budge a bit. That gave me reason to hope.
My hopes were destroyed today when the FSG wrote to me and said "I see no reason why I should change anything." Well, it's his work and he can do things however he wants, of course, but it would be nice if he were willing to compromise on this small thing. One of his close colleagues says that for the FSG to change even this small technical detail would be like admitting an error, and this person does not Err.
So I decided to give up and go ahead with a related project, even if the results won't be as elegant or simple as they could be. I saw no point in further delaying the project, which, by the way, is not a research project, but a sort of professional service activity that needed doing.
When I told another colleague that I was giving up on convincing the FSG, he became incensed. He was a angry with the FSG for being a "short-sighted narcissist", but he seemed even more angry with me. He told me that I was like all those people who let George W. Bush do whatever he wants just because George W. Bush is aggressive and insists that his way is right even when it's not and that's how we got into this war.
Some days are stranger and more difficult than others.
6 months ago