Perception dictates action. It is human nature and it will often influence us regardless of our awareness. So what can we do about it?
Let’s start with these three questions:
- Can you remember the last time you tried to do something that you didn’t know much about or are not very good at?
- How about the last time you did something that was second nature?
- How did you react in both cases if you hit a hurdle?
For most people:
- If we are knowledgeable about a task or topic and a problem arises, we assume it is due to an issue with the task
- If we are not as knowledgeable or comfortable with a task or topic and a problem arises, we often assume it is our fault and get stressed out
Both of these reactions are a matter of perspective. And since we are not robots we will never be knowledgeable about all topics; so how do we minimize incorrectly inflicting fault on ourselves? To learn the answer, let’s apply a few examples.
THE EXASPERATED PHONE CALL
Being on vacation does not mean we can always disconnect from work. So when my mom could not connect to WiFi, she had an unmistakable exasperation in her voice when she called at 4pm ET (10pm in Europe):
“I need your help. The wifi does not work on my iPad.”
“Okay, we’ll figure it out… find the settings icon,” I coached her.
“One of the first options should be wifi”
“Yes I got to that already. I clicked wifi. But nothing comes up!”
“So there’s no network name appearing?”
“No, it’s blank. I tried typing in the name too.”
“Did you call the hotel to ask about the network? And the password?”
“No…. I don’t know what I am doing wrong”
“Can you call the front desk?”
“(pause)… but why isn’t the internet working?”
We continued back and forth like that for a few minutes until I finally said “I don’t know how else to say this, you’re not doing anything wrong. Ask the hotel if they are having issues with the internet and then call me back.”
She called. They reset the WiFi router. It worked!
Lesson: if something isn’t working, don’t automatically think you’re the rotten apple who is lacking experience.
The funny thing with technology is that we all lack experience to a certain degree — that is why “coding bugs” became a common phrase!
What differentiates us is our ability to stay calm while we troubleshoot, and being comfortable asking questions we do not know the answer to.
CAN YOU REPEAT THAT?
When a language is not second nature to you, asking people to repeat themselves inevitably leads them to translate. But what if you just simply didn’t hear them due to background noise? Or their voice was too low?
I was the first of my family to be born in the US and, even though we did not speak the Latin-based language very much when I was growing up, it was spoken often enough that I was a bilingual toddler. But as I got older, it was as if my non-English tongue said “I don’t wanna grow up!” It wasn’t until I was 12 or 13 years old that I started embracing foreign languages again (and was finally able to speak directly with my grandparents). But to this day, even though I am fluent enough to understand, speak and read three languages quite well, my family still gives a chuckle and translation every time I ask for a word or sentence to be repeated. One day I responded to their translation by saying (in the Latin-based language), “you know I would have asked you to repeat yourself even if you would have been speaking in English?”
Lesson: When teaching people, give them the benefit of the doubt and hold them to a higher standard so they can rise to the challenge. Be aware of how a person’s ability levels have changed over time. You might have a perception of the his/her ability level which no longer aligns with the present.
The next time something isn’t working as you expected and you start to think it’s your fault, realize that the problem may have NOTHING to do with you! Recognize that it’s possible that even the most experienced person could be encountering the same problem. Stop being so darn hard on yourself by:
- Replacing stressful reactions with rational questions
- Staying calm while you troubleshoot and seeing problems as an opportunity to learn something new
- Asking Google for answers when you want to be especially self-reliant
- Having faith in yourself. You CAN figure it out if you perceive yourself as able to find an answer. And be comfortable with the output even if the answer is inconclusive
Why We Should Talk to Strangers
We all crave human connections and yet we sabotage our kindness with excuses or perceived qualifiers. A mindset shift…
The Three Variables That Influence All of Humanity
And how it influences our view of regret