Today I was on the edge. It was on the tip of my tongue, limping to get out of my mouth, like a prisoner shaking the jail’s bars: “Yes, yes, I KNOW already”. But I swallowed it back, together with my pride.
It’s so easy to falsely think we know it all. We’re experts in everything, especially if we spent some years in a certain field. What can surprise us, still? Most fellows put age as an “excuse” or as a mask for “you can’t possibly teach me anything new, I’ve seen everything”. Not even when you’ve seen all the movies in the world gives you authority. Maybe just a better perspective.
Anyway, this is more related to young people, who obviously can’t put the age mask to explain why they understand and already know it. They don’t need more. Mentoring is overrated. But is it?
What can possibly be an explanation for the smart-ass behaviour in young people? Is it a deep triggering insecurity, the fear of being perceived dumb or the way we truly treat ourselves — constantly underestimating our capacities and reflecting it arrogantly as an apparent omniscient?
It’s not only rude, but also a slip of opportunity to listen and know more. Never, when two people shared an idea, arguing or not over it, has the amount of information stayed the same. We usually have this attitude towards our leaders, managers, or people we want to impress — be it our friends too. And these people haven’t got the slightest intention of making us feel inferior or ignorant. They want to help, to guide, but without themselves in turn pretending to be walking encyclopedias. That would be a (Sid) Vicious circle! So with this kind of approach, we skip a chance to learn from other people.
It can happen to be the same information you just read 10 minutes ago. Instead of “Yeah, I know it, awesome”, try “I just read it … found it challenging. What’s your opinion on the subject?” or “Do you know where I can find related information?” A 360 degree turn to change the conversation. It creates engagement, not division. “Yeah, I know it” puts up a barrier, a Pink Floyd wall.
Imagine the following example, because whenever I think about Italian food, I always have the impression only Italians have true expertise in pasta and pizza. Which they do, but why limit the options? So let’s say I’m a know-it-all who has been travelling a lot to Italy and I have a fair share of insight into their cuisine. Here comes my friend, Bill, who recently tried a new cool Italian restaurant in town, which I didn’t.
“Oh man, their tagliatelle bolognese was awesome. The minced beef was so juicy and the sauce… just like it should be: a pinch spicy. You should definitely try it.”
“Yeah, maybe… although I prefer genuine Italian cuisine, you know…the original stuff.”
And this is how Bill understands I don’t care to listen to his recommendation and maybe doesn’t even bother to tell me that the restaurant is an Italian family-owned business. Oh well, was I not a sweetheart? This is a day-to-day example. Here I’m afraid to look uncool in front of cool Bill. In our jobs, this gets a bit worse. I think you can get the point.
Today I was on the edge. And I’m so glad I stopped my impulsive reaction and actually challenged my response, my thinking. I asked myself: “Anca, do you really think you don’t need this information, although it might levitate in a corner of your mind, like a sleeping bag?” The answer was, unquestionably, “No”. This person was trying to give me proper guidance and I almost behaved like an asshole! I stumbled, but I didn’t fall, though. Next time I’ll know better. I’ll try to sip their words and fill my knowledge cup, even sustain the line of ideas with questions.
So, people, how about we change the mentality of “know-it-all” to “don’t know-it-all”? I prefer that. It’s going to produce a nice shift in my life, for sure. I’ll no longer be a smart ass, but a listening ass.