Is It Good To Be Predictable?

If someone describes you as predictable, do you think that is a good thing? Do you consider yourself predictable?

There are definitely advantages to being predictable. Primarily, people know what to expect from you. If you are driving in fast-moving traffic, for example, following the rules of the road and not behaving erratically means you are much less likely to be in an accident.

The same thing holds true in your personal relationships. If you behave consistently, your friends and family will find your presence to be stable. If you always show up for work at the same time, then your co-workers will recognize that about you and act accordingly.

Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘How do you think others see you?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘How can we maintain wonder?’

And yet, there are times when predictability can be a drawback. If you follow the same routine, talk about the same things, and go to the same places, growth can be hard to achieve. To be spontaneous can also have advantages.

There are certainly times that acting predictably can be a drawback. When waging a battle, whether an actual physical skirmish, or a proxy like a sports game or a board game, doing the unexpected can be an effective strategy for unsettling your opponent.

So there are times when each is preferable. In general, do you like one over the other? Can you think of other examples where it might be beneficial, or harmful, for people to guess what you are going to do in any given situation? Is it good to be predictable?

Related questions: What is your five year prediction? Ten? Why do people like games? How do you think others see you?


3 thoughts on “Is It Good To Be Predictable?”

  1. One of the virtues I treasure most and work to practice is integrity. Integrity requires moral soundness and consistency of values and actions. So when it comes to matters of right and wrong as well as practicing the values that I preach, I want to be known for predictability.

    Next, I like to be known for at least three things regarding being a participant in and cheerleader for advancing issues related to justice as well as promoting environmental sustainability:

    • Consistently working to end homelessness and advocating for affordable, quality, and stable housing;
    • Using my personal experiences to fight the stigma and discrimination regarding mental illnesses;
    • Promoting seed diversity through heirloom gardening and encouraging and helping others do the same.

    The above noted, there is one aspect of my work-life in which I try to be predictably unpredictable. I want to surprise my targets (i.e., political leaders who can give me what I am advocating for) through the use of funky tactics. It would require a lot of explanation to provide examples here. (If readers would like prior instances, I can give some in later comments.) Let me simply note that in practicing grassroots advocacy, I like to use unpredictably engaging ways to apply pressure on my targets.

  2. In general, I think that for people you know and like, it is good to be predictable. For people who you are at odds with, it is good to be unpredictable.

    However, even with that rule of thumb, I can think of an exception: quite often, you hear of long-lasting couples who need to do something different to spice up their relationship. Be unpredictable, in other words.

  3. I’m sure the ladies at my favorite coffee shop like that when I come in they know exactly what to make.
    On the other hand, I think my predictability annoys some people as it borders on the side of OCD.

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