Don’t lose focus on the *real* issue

“Blueberries keep falling out of the wheelbarrow.” Jack was frustrated. He pulled his wool scarf up over his ears, which was odd considering it was August.

Jill glanced skyward and shook her head. “Birds keep eating the blueberries.” She didn’t add “you simpleton”, but it was implied.

“That’s not the point, Jill. It’s like you’re not even hearing me.” He didn’t add “you ninny”, but it was inferred.

“Don’t get distracted from the real issue, Jack.” Jill continued to assemble the scarecrow.


Who’s right? Which point is valid? What’s the real issue? Let’s give them another chance. Jack and Jill: Take two …


“Blueberries keep falling out of the wheelbarrow.” Jack was frustrated.

Jill glanced skyward. “Not only that, birds eat a lot of the berries.”

“I’m still not convinced that birds are an issue, but it’s safe to say that our blueberry harvest has problems,” assessed Jack. He always was sensible in August.

Jill smiled. “I don’t understand why there’s a problem with the wheelbarrow but, since that’s something you care about, why don’t you deal with it? And, since I have a grasp on the bird problem, I’ll tackle that.”

“Great! Together we’ll solve it.” Jack offered Jill a ride in the wheelbarrow, and she respectfully declined. They did, however, live happily ever after.


The morals of our little berry tale? (If you don’t chuckle now, you’ll laugh later.)

  • Let’s not be quick to assume that the point we want to make is the main point or the only valid point. It might be a case of and rather than or.
  • Let’s not act as though we have the authority to declare what the “real” issue is and callously ignore all others. If we want to introduce a related issue, let’s be sure it doesn’t come across as being dismissive of the issue already on the table. Let’s listen to others and do our best to make them feel heard.
  • We don’t have to agree with, or even understand, another issue to let it see the light of day.

In The Thinkery Clubhouse (our online community), I sometimes post questions in this way:

What can we do to address the problem of birds eating the blueberries? (If you’d like to discuss other issues related to the blueberry harvest, feel free to create a new post, but I’d like to keep this thread focused on the matter of the birds. Thanks!)

This way, I keep us focused on the issue at hand while acknowledging that the issue I’m addressing isn’t the only one that matters and giving others a chance to raise related issues in a way that provides due focus.

Blueberry harvests, space travel, immigration policy, and justice are complex matters. We would do well to keep in mind that each matter involves multiple sub-issues and many valid points, not just the ones we hold dear. Most of all, let’s respect and listen to each other. We just might learn something and find some solutions.

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