Most people don’t know what they are talking about, they are thick as bricks, myself included.
If only more of us realised this, we would be a bit kinder to each other, expect less of each other, and work better together.
We wouldn’t follow people down the wrong track, we’d be aware of their limitations and our own.
It’s not polite to call people bricks, or stupid, or close-minded, or arrogant, or ignorant. Some of those phrases even stir up notions of ableism (“stupid”), a whole other can of worms.
But there is a difference between ableism, saying that because someone is intellectually impaired that they are a bad or lesser person, and being realistic about the world.
It would be too blunt to point out to everyone we meet that they are self-absorbed and make frequent and glaring mistakes. It would not be a good idea, no one would want to work with you, however refreshingly honest you were. We don’t want to hear about problems, especially our own!
Without saying anything to anyone, we can use this realisation to our advantage. It can help us to expect less of each other, and be kinder. When you lower your expectations for the people around you and on the internet to be paragons of self-aware virtue, you can begin to trust yourself more. If everyone is a bit stupid and wrong, including yourself, then it makes sense to listen to yourself more frequently. When we allow for commonplace idiocy, we can forgive ourselves for our wrong moves as well.
If we ignore that other people are fallible, we can fall down a rabbit hole of frustrated and failed expectations. We might expect people on the internet to solve our problems, have perfect insight, be truly honest and transparent, but then be disappointed when they make assumptions, have bad advice, and misrepresent themselves.
It doesn’t have to be conscious; a successful entrepreneur doesn’t want to mislead you necessarily, but they will be biased by their own (statistically unlikely) success. You could also be swayed by their success; perhaps you can replicate it, but it remains statistically unlikely either way. You can still read their blog, but remembering that they aren’t perfect will help avoid a nasty fall-out when you don’t become the next Google.
Another example is retail workers. Perhaps the girl in the shop really did make a mistake, or she maliciously stopped you from getting what you wanted. If we lower our expectations, we can see that it’s unrealistic and unfair to expect that the shop assistant would never make a mistake. It makes for a less efficient shopping trip, but there’s less disappointment and betrayal when the mistakes happen.
Being aware of people’s limitations allows us to trust them more, and is kinder than expecting perfection.
(Comic: From xkcd )
The Price of Salt
Taking everything people say and do with a pinch of salt might sound like it’s asking a lot, but ultimately will make you more relaxed, more trusting, and kinder to others and yourself. I think that’s worth it, even if you do have to keep that knowledge of fallibility to yourself to keep yourself in a job!