When it’s Best to Stay on the Bench

with No Comments

“Monday Morning Quarterbacking” (MMQB) is an activity that seems to have reached epic proportions. We do it with high profile news events, business decisions, interpersonal interactions and even natural disasters.

While there are a variety of definitions, one offered by yourdictionary.com really seems to nail it, “One who criticizes or passes judgment from a position of hindsight.”

Ah, hindsight…

We often say it is “20/20” when looking at things that have already occurred. Somehow, we all have perfect visual acuity for those items appearing in the rearview mirror.

I believe that MMQB is a deeply problematic behavior and one we need to limit, because it is fundamentally flawed. “But Jill,” you say, “it’s no big deal and everyone does it!” Well, just like any good after school special, I shall now explain why this behavior IS actually quite a big deal and why we should ALL settle down with (doing) it.

  1. It’s easy to say you know what you would do in a situation, but that simply isn’t true. It’s like the expression about “common sense.” We all get so high and mighty about other people having it, but the truth is, it’s only “common” to you and the people who think just like you. Find yourself in a situation that is no longer quite as common, and anything can happen.
  2. There’s a certain amount of self-deception at play with MMQB. I would like to believe I will show up as the best version of myself, but I don’t always know me and frankly, I can do some pretty stupid things, given the opportunity.
  3. There’s a great deal of arrogance inherent in this behavior. Who made any of us the arbiter of what’s right or wrong and the best way to handle something?
  4. We don’t always account for the distortion that occurs during these moments. Events run together, facts are skewed, and heroes are crowned, but it’s anyone’s guess what is actually true or false.
  5. It minimizes our ability to be empathetic and compassionate. Going back to our definition, this behavior inherently carries aspects of judgment. When we get in this space, we become positional and it’s a lot harder to exercise care and concern for the person who experienced the situation. Remember that the events that most often get MMQB are those that are quite unusual. When one is (as the lovely Robin Rose – author, trainer, speaker and consultant says) “hurried, worried or stressed,” they aren’t in thinking brain, but are focused on survival. In those moments, more than ever, they need our care and concern, not our haughty “insights.”

Now you may be wondering, if I stop this, how in the world will I get my exercise? Well, thank you for asking. How about trying one of these things?

  1. Active listening. When someone shares an experience that you would normally suit up for, stay quiet and just listen. Listening is a psychological activity, which taxes your brain and burns calories.
  2. Engage your muscles of self-management. It’s good practice to hold your tongue, especially when no one asked you to weigh in on an issue, in the first place. It will build your impulse control, which is helpful in a wide variety of situations.
  3. Practice curiosity about your own reaction as you hear/read/consider the details. What comes up for you? What do you think you would do? What makes you think that is true? What other perspectives could be at play for the person/people involved? This is some serious thinking, so, again, burning those calories.

MMQB is not a harmless pastime. It sets us against people who should never be our adversaries and leads us to think we are wiser, more important and more self-aware than we actually are.

So, the next time a coach seems to be waving you into the game, it’s okay to sit the play out. Let others get tackled or flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The muscles that matter won’t atrophy sitting on the bench and you my friend, will be MVP.