Tuesday, November 7, 2017

"I'll have to think about that" - a phrase I would never use

It is odd how a small thought, casually encountered, can lead to much deeper thoughts.  I asked somebody what I thought was simply to give me his answer to, in my view, a very simple question.  I was surprised to hear him say quickly, ”I’ll have to think about that.”  My surprise was because the question deserved no more than a quick answer, and because I would never myself leave a questioner high and dry like this.

Here, then, was yet another lesson in learning to understand better how different elements respond, in this case to being expected to find a quick answer to a question.  Thinking further about this, I could not recall a time when I would have answered any question in this way.  Instead, if I am unsure of how to answer, I express this uncertainty immediately in words.  It is as though I am trying to find an answer as I talk. This is my Fire element’s dominant official, the Small Intestine, doing its job of sorting in plain sight, as it were. The friend of whom I asked this simple question, however, is not Fire but Metal.  Was his answer typical of Metal, then, I asked myself?  So I asked another Metal friend whether he could see himself replying like that, and he confirmed that he definitely could.

So here I had two instances of Metal needing time and space to think things through before coming to a decision, but making this decision by themselves rather than in open conversation with me, as Fire would do. This made me wonder about the other elements.  Earth, which likes to think things through thoroughly and slowly, would understand Metal’s reply, but would take longer reaching a final decision, possibly talking things through slowly with me.  Wood is the element closely associated with decision-making, but might be in danger of making too quick a decision and sticking to it through thick and thin, without considering too much whether it is the right one.*  When I come to Water, I am, as always with this hidden element, somewhat uncertain how it will react.  I must ask my Indian Water friend, Sujata, to help me here.

In a week or so, Guy Caplan and I are holding a seminar for 50 people which we have called “Exploring the Elements”.  I think this will be a good occasion to explore further with the participants the decision-making processes of the different elements.  This should help confirm or amend what I have written above.

*Added after I posted this blog for the first time:  Or Wood, always the inquisitive, enquiring element, might counter my question with a question of its own.


  1. I have just received this interesting reply from Sujata in answer to my question above:

    “To answer your question about how I would react if you asked me a question, I think one thing Water is very aware of is context and one's own identity as being different from the next person's. So I would work out the answer (relatively quickly I think) in context to myself, and say, "This is what I think or this is how I would do it, if it was me. But it's you, so you might like to work out a way better suited to yourself."

    There will always be an edge of uncertainty because though Water is sure of itself, it is not so certain of other elements, and how they might like to react. That's why Water sometimes talks a little more than what is required, even when the answer has been given.

    A very interesting exercise for me, and I look forward to more of these (as many of your colleagues and friends might)!”

  2. As a Metal (IX) CF, I would want to make sure that the answer I gave was right. If the 'blade' of my mind did not feel sufficiently honed to cut to the right answer, I would take a few moments to sharpen the 'blade' and then be ready to answer.