Start By Assuming That People Are Smart
Do you ever do this?
You see someone make a comment online.
Or you hear a comment at work or while you’re with your friends.
And their comment kind of makes you snicker?
I have to raise my hand because I’ve been guilty of it. And I’m ashamed that I’ve done this in the past. More times than I would care to admit.
I found myself doing it the other day. I did this quick little IQ test and wanted to test it against some folks in my life.
Then I realized that this was not good behavior.
It’s not good for personal relationships. And it’s not good in the business world.
In Our Own Worlds
I think this happens in the business world fairly often. I see it because I look at a lot of websites. I go to websites to figure out what the business does. You’d be surprised at how difficult it is sometimes to figure that out.
We seem to try to make things more complex than they need to be. Or we’re so wrapped up in our own worlds at work that we don’t realize that we almost speak our own language. And that others, while very smart in their own right, just don’t know our work at the level we know it.
And when we’re in a situation where someone doesn’t know our work like we know our work we kind of snicker. Maybe it makes us feel good. We can’t imagine how someone couldn’t know that.
Another factor could be that we’re not really communicating our point very well. So the other person has a confused look on their face.
It would be easy to assume that they’re not getting it because they’re not smart. After all, it makes sense in our head. Why can’t they get it?
I catch myself doing this when I say the phrase, “You know what I mean…”
I’ve found that when I say that phrase it’s almost definitely assured that the other person doesn’t know what I mean and that it’s my fault for not communicating it clearly.
Turn The Tables
Now here’s a little game to play with yourself.
Think about the times when you didn’t know what was going on in a conversation or in a similar situation. You may have felt left out. But you probably didn’t feel stupid or like an idiot. It’s just something you hadn’t known about.
You wouldn’t think that it would be right for the others around to think that you’re not smart. It wouldn’t make sense for them to not choose you to work with them on a project or to hire you or to hire your firm.
But it happens.
Our brains are wired to make snap judgments and decisions. Our ancestors had to rely on those skills a little more than we did. They had to quickly assess situations because there was danger around every corner.
We have overcome many of the dangers that plagued our ancestors. But we still have the same instincts.
It’s good in many instances. It’s good to trust your gut instinct a lot of the time, but it can also let you down. Especially if you’re thinking that someone isn’t smart.
Everybody Has Something To Offer
What I’ve found is that just about everybody has something to offer in just about every situation.
I think of a business leader in the town where I live. He’s big on hiring for cultural fit more than for current skills. He’s a big believer that skills can be changed. And his business has been very successful.
In fact, I golf with one of his employees. This employee had no prior experience. He wouldn’t have been considered smart in the context of this industry. But he was very smart in other areas. And they hired him and he became very good at his job.
I’ve had to learn not to look at people’s faults. We can do that with everyone. We all have faults.
It’s better to look at everyone’s positives. The things they have to offer the world. That’s where you can find some really great untapped potential.
So the next time you find yourself thinking that someone might not be smart take a second to rethink the situation. Look at it from another angle. Assume they are very smart. Maybe not in the same ways you are, but in different ways. Ways that are wonderful and possibly even a representation of an opportunity to work together.
You never know.