Over and Above

I’m not very good at trying to digest new information on subjects I know very little about. For some reason I have this concept that I have to be good at everything, or I am good for nothing. Learning to be teachable has been a process that I am still working on to this day, and probably will for the rest of my life.

Today was a good example of dealing with information that was not familiar to me. An IT friend came over and was discussing my website and blog. The words he started using were well beyond my comprehension and I found myself shutting down, as is my usual pattern. I wanted to scream and run out of the room, getting into a fetal position in a dark corner until the agony was over.

But today I decided to try something new and express how I was feeling. I didn’t do it with malice or acting like I was offended that he wouldn’t understand what he was saying was too technical for me, but simply expressed that he was talking over me and that my capacity for new information had reached about 95% at that point. His response was surprisingly gentle, and almost apologetic. I could tell he really liked what he knew and was only trying to help me.

When I give people the information they need, so they can understand how I am feeling, I am not giving away my power, but rather giving them an opportunity to choose what to do with the information. This concept is completely new to me. In the past when I was not able to follow a conversation or topic, I would either lash out over fear they would perceive that I wasn’t smart, or would put them on the defensive by attacking their lack of sensitivity to my needs. Where I learned this pattern of behavior I do not know, but it isn’t very productive.

To continue to grow and expand I need to learn new information, and get fresh ideas and perspectives on things. I can’t do this if I am closed off to being vulnerable, expressing areas where I lack knowledge and need more information. I don’t have to appear to know something about every topic. Plus, I imagine it would be pretty annoying to be around someone who thinks they know something about everything. And I certainly don’t want to be that guy.

Today I will remain teachable, even if it requires some vulnerability.

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2 Responses to Over and Above

  1. Jeff Lund says:

    Hey Greg
    I needed this! Absolutely, beautifully-
    The REAL (bare-best) you!
    Or any of us…
    Your former conditioned response of … “I would either lash out over fear they would perceive that I wasn’t smart, or would put them on the defensive by attacking their lack of sensitivity to my needs. Where I learned this pattern of behavior I do not know”.
    To me, it is just Is simply human nature that we all “learned”, or more accurately just impulsively, limbically repeated as young, SCARED little human beings. From kindergarten through high school through … ? Unfortunately some people seem to never get past it. They haven’t learned or don’t care about, the objective self-awareness that is required to know what is needed to get to a fuller, more useful, communication outside their own familiar “lingo”.
    The key is that you provided the information without any negative emotion. That part is tougher for me in some situations than others. (Especially with family members or those we have a history with who know what incendiary “buttons” to push to throw us out of “rational” mode.) I am still working on this. It is tough to do the rational detached-analysis sometimes.

    The bigger challenge for me, is to carry-out is a similar process in “emotional comuunication” rather than simply “informational communication” situations.
    (i.e., When someone intentionally puts me down/ “zings” me. The most caustic retort is always at the ready …IN MY MIND. I have to intentionally pause and 95% of the time, rightfully repress it as the most useless path I could take. This is not always easy. To meet “aggression with compassion” instead of just more reflexive aggression- Is often difficult. That is a similar, but totally different, and more difficult process, that I am learning to better communicate/deal with.)

    The “informational communication” gap you address here is one that really requires me to analyze, to stay authentic, stay very rational and then articulate it in a simple matter of fact way. The “Being vulnerable” part is also as hard for me. If someone is talking above me, I do genuinely want to get the communication to be more useful.
    But, in fact, it s tough for me to admit that I don’t know as much as i would like to think I do, about many things. Particularly the “secret code of the “Techy”. Especially if I assume that they are using it as “a revenge of the nerd/geek” just to get a buzz out of baffling me. I am sure most are just innocently assuming we all grew up in the same cyber-space and era that they did.

    Your real humility, your ever-increasing emotional “vulnerability” and all the skills that you are learning to make them more useful in your life- Totally inspire me more and more with each new thoughtful insight you share. Thanks much for being so willing to be so real.
    Jeff Lund

  2. Debe Knaack says:

    Oh boy, can I relate. I gave birth to my “Personal IT Specialist”. “WE” HAVE TO have the same cell phone provider. I couldn’t afford to pay for all the times I call him. It’s not only a different language; it’s a whole new thought process!!
    I agree with Jeff. It is “Human nature”. I would like to add a personal perception: LB had his share of “stupid” inferences. Then there is the fact that YOU chose to become a salesman and then a Supervisor. Showing your ignorance/creditability can kill a sale instantaneously! BS, manipulation, charm whatever it takes, “Don’t ever let them see you sweat!!”
    The way I “got over” my insecurity was to remind myself that my son has knowledge I need to become more “INDEPENDANT”. Stupid, slow or backward? NOPE!! He is giving me the opportunity to learn. He wasn’t born with this knowledge and knows that I wasn’t either. He PAID for this information and is sharing it with me for nothing!! If I’m too “proud” to accept his instruction, then I have chosen to be “Stupid, slow or backward”!! You don’t have to be vulnerable, just be a student.
    Reality: You know more than some people do about some things and some people know more than you do about some things.
    Don’t let yourself be “Stupid, slow or backward”!! You are the only one in control of that!!

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