I painted your house versus Here’s your painted house

assorted-color paints and paintbrushes on white tarp

I learned something about people today. There are two kinds of people in this world. People who, when you tell them “I did this” respond “Okay”. And people who respond “Show me”. The two groups are very different. I will call them the nodders and the checkers. And they attract other people just like them.

The nodders have created a strange world for themselves. Whenever someone says “I did this” they nod. In return, when a nodder says “I did this”, they’re surrounded with other people who nod. They don’t exchange value. Oh, they exchange large sums of money between themselves. After all, “I painted your house” is worth money, right? And of course they will ask some pointed questions like: How long will that take you? and How do I know you’re any good? They’ll feel like they asked some great questions before they handed over the other person any money. But they don’t actually want to see a product. They don’t even want to receive a product. No, much better to just receive a story. You just read it and nod. You painted my house. Oh, good. That’s nice.

The checkers are a quite different bunch. If they hire someone to paint their house, they will want to see it with their own eyes. They’ll bring a magnifying glass. If a checker does not see the work, the product or end result with their own eyes, they won’t hand over money. No proof of work means it’s not done. A nodder, however, when faced with a lack of proof of the work, will ask for a chitty. They’ll ask for a piece of paper where the other person simply declares they did it. They believe in words more than in deeds.

When a checker is faced with a product that was intended for nodders, things get strange. There is a story: “I painted the house”. But there is no proof of any work done. No tins of paint, no receipts for brushes, no drying doors, no house to inspect. Just a story: “I painted the house”. The checker whose job it is to check on the work, goes back to the nodder who commisioned the work and says “I don’t see any work that was done”. This confuses the nodder. “Do you mean they didn’t do it?”, they’ll ask. The checker will reply: “I can’t tell”. The nodder will want their money back, even though the exact same outcome (no painted house) would have received their approval if no checker had been present.

Conversely, a checker who does work himself, assumes that his work will be checked. The work itself is proof of the work. But when confronted with a nodder-type, a different type of confusion arises. The nodder will keep asking for paperwork. The checker hands over pictures of the work. The nodder will look baffled and claim that this is not what they’re looking for. The checker hesitates. They hand over receipts for brushes and paint. The nodder will become ever more demanding that this is not how it works. Checker-types are practical. They do the job and expect you to inspect the job. Faced with a nodder, they’re baffled. Checker-types don’t do pretty stories. They’ll point out that the weather wasn’t very favorable for the paint to dry but that in a few weeks’ time the color will even out nicely. The nodder panics. This is not the pretty story they need. They need to come back to their in-group with a story about it all being hunky-dory and rosy. They don’t want to hear what still needs time or what might not be done as originally promised. They want you to give them an original plan (“paint house”) and a story (“house is painted now”). Anyone who tries to wake them up to the fact that the paperwork is not the work, is met with confusion at best, anger at worst.

It’ll take the checker quite some time to figure out that the simple act of checking whether the work was done, sets too high a bar… The assignment wasn’t to actually do the job, the assignment was to claim that the job has been done.