The Slippery Slope Savant


We all deal with problems in life.  Some deal with them better than others.  Some choose not to deal with them at all.  There are others however who choose to deal with even the smallest of problems in the most over-the-top manner.  These people are the slippery slope savants.  Ask them to remove a stain from a carpet and they’ll be at the carpet store buying new carpeting.  This won’t just be new carpeting for the area in question either they will be buying new carpeting for the whole house.  The slippery slope savant is incapable of dealing with small problems and thus feels it necessary to escalate these problems into bigger ones that justify their grandiose solutions.  No matter how small the problem these people can find a reason or rationale to escalate the scope of the problem and thus will take ten times as long as it would have otherwise taken to solve the initial problem.

It’s never about the actual problem with the savant and it’s important to understand how they operate so that you can save yourself from doing more work than is required to achieve something that is not worth doing.  The first thing to understand is that they view no problem as small or isolated.  Second, they believe that the problem will always have a domino effect on something else.  Third, the savant looks at the problem as being endemic of a bigger problem.  The potential exists that untold problems could unfold if he does not over-react to the situation at hand.  The problem with this person is that they are thinking of the myriad potential problems that could unfold.  They treat the one million to one odds as even to the actual odds because in their mind no situation or scenario is impossible however improbable.

The biggest problem the slippery slope savant presents lies in the residual damage they cause.  They may intend to implement their solutions themselves for instance but the sheer scope of their solution makes such an approach an improbability from the get go.  Indeed, everything they do from recognition of the problem to the implementation of the solution was inevitable from the outset given their line of thinking.  A simple maxim is usually sufficient to save a good deal of frustration for those of us who want nothing to do with the over-the-top solutions of the savant: if the solution cannot be done alone then it is too expensive.  This requires the savant to think not just in monetary terms but in issues of time, resources etc.  The savant almost never realizes it but the tax their solutions levy on those around them are far higher than the taxes they levy on themselves.  Human resources depletion may not be the biggest issue you face in whatever problem the savant has involved you in (money usually is) but when it comes to the savant it is usually the most taxing.

Another problem one faces when dealing with the slippery slope savant is not situation-oriented but rather an issue of philosophy.  A normal person aims to fix a problem whereas the savant is thinking of the opportunity that this problem has created to do more than could conceivably be necessary in any given situation.  If your toilet is clogged the savant will find a way to make the issue not about the toilet but the bathroom in general and that’s if you’re lucky.  Some savants will use a toilet problem as a reason to replace all plumbing and that is a far bigger issue than the normal person will have to deal with because this person has now risen above room-related issues and moved up to generalize all problems within a larger category.

A normal savant will stick to the bathroom though and that is a big enough problem for the average person because in our minds dealing with the toilet is problem enough now we have to stop the slippery slope savant from spending ten thousand dollars on a new bathroom.  This inevitably leads to what would normally be called “errors” in communication and levels of frustration undreamed of by the person who has their mind fixed on trying to solve the problem.  There is no error in communication however as you will be dealing with two different problems.  One person is trying to unclog the toilet the other is trying to replace the bathroom or worse all the plumbing in the house.  There is no easy way to deal with the slippery slope savant in this or any other situation.  The best one can do is to recognize the potential for problems before asking the savant to solve the problem in the first place.

The traits that lead to a slippery slope savant are typical of the over-achiever in general.  The solution is thus quite difficult because once this person gets an idea in their head it becomes difficult to dislodge their idea of the problem from the actual problem that exists.  Many people find it easier to simply let the slippery slope savant do what they want than to argue tooth and nail over every imagined problem especially since resolving the problem successfully will not show them the error inherent in their thinking.  If you let the savant get what they want however you do risk letting them think that they can apply their solution wherever and whenever a problem exists and that can be very dangerous especially if you live in a world with monetary constraints.  This is why limiting the damage is often the best outcome that can be hoped for.

Indeed nothing you can do will change their thinking at least nothing I have come across and that is perhaps the most difficult problem that the slippery slope savant poses to us all.  It’s been my experience that the best one can hope for in this situation is to contain the problem and work at isolating the train of thought of the slippery slope savant thus limiting their imagination from thinking of bigger things and focusing their energy on something smaller even if by smaller we’re still talking about spending thousands of dollars.  Sometimes the best outcome we can hope for is a good outcome not a perfect outcome.  A good outcome when dealing with a slippery slope savant is simply to avoid an escalation of the problem.  Whether the problem itself gets fixed or not is often immaterial as the potential for bigger problems far outweighs whatever potential benefit one might get from solving the initial problem.


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