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Asking an Expert

Updated on April 22, 2011

... it’s probably what you needed to hear.

So, many times a week I am asked to offer my opinion on issues facing designers, contractors, homeowners, and architects.  Its part of the job I guess. People expect that since you are working in a particular field for a few decades you will have gained experience that would be beneficial.  There are two aspects related to this providing of advice that I am concerned with. 

Firstly, if you are asking someone about a subject that they perhaps know more about than yourself, you must be willing to actually hear what it is they are telling you.  Like visiting the Doctor, it’s not always going to be good news, but that doesn’t mean you stop going to the doctor.  If the “expert” tells you it’s not a good idea, against the building code, generally poor practise, or impractical, you should probably listen.  There is always more than a single solution to any problem, some will be more suitable than others, not necessarily easier or less expensive, but more suitable for your situation.  But when the response to my advice is “... but the other guy said it would be ok!?”  I have to wonder why I wasted my time.  If you are asking me, because you want me to reinforce the delusions you obviously have, by patting you on the back and saying “sure that will work, no problem” Don’t ask!  I am not here to reassure you and ease your uncertainty.  The fact that you thought to ask me should raise a warning flag that you sub-consciously know that what you are planning has issues.

Secondly, if you want me to research, engineer, design, or present my opinion, beyond simple verbal discussions. You should understand that it will probably cost something.  When a tradesperson is asked to design a solution for a problem, it does not seem to warrant a value like when a “professional” (Lawyer, accountant, engineer, designer...) offers their opinion.  Whether the knowledge necessary to resolve an issue is gained at an institute of higher learning or the “University of Life Experience”, it is still valuable just the same.   Clients who were upset at being asked to pay hundreds for the time necessary to prepare my reports, were devastated to pay thousands to engineering consultants to hear the same advise. 

The bottom line:

Most times you get what you pay for, and even if it’s not exactly what you wanted to hear, it’s probably what you needed to hear.


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