The World’s Greatest Lie
And the Path to Freedom
By Kendel J. Christensen
Part V of VIII
1. Do I acknowledge the vastness of what I don’t know?
“Never, never rest contented with any circle of ideas, but always be certain that
a wider one is still possible.” –Richard Jefferies
We are so quick to jump to conclusions. We think we are so smart. We can observe something or someone, and we immediately tell ourselves a story that explains it. But so very often, there is more to the story.
For example, I had a job where my boss and I did not get along. As a result, I felt I was unduly burdened and treated unfairly in certain ways. I could have jumped to the conclusion that my boss was “just a jerk” (a conclusion we jump to so quickly and easily, it is called “fundamental” in social psychology). In my mind, I had plenty of evidence for it. And besides, what could I do? I was a nice person doing all I could, and I can’t do anything about other people’s behavior. Conclusion: I’m a victim.
Here are some of the questions one of my friends asked me when I tried to complain about the situation:
· How much do you know about your boss, really, as a person?
· How much of an effort do you make every day, especially during lunch, to make small talk?
· Have you talked to your boss’s friends at work, asked them for suggestions as to what you could do better?
· Have you asked your boss directly how you could improve your relationship?
· Have you read a book about getting along with people in an office setting?
· If you were George Clooney, what would you do to improve the situation?
Of course there was more I could do. I hadn’t even come close to “trying everything.” The first questions illustrate the vastness of how much I really did now know about my boss. The last two questions illustrate the vastness of much I really do not know about communication, human relationships, and being likable. In all that vastness, how could I see myself as a victim? Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I now had a mission—and a lot of work to do.
Did my friend give me a quick fix? A magic bullet? Heck no! I have still yet to read a small fraction of the applicable literature that could have a bearing on my boss liking me. But the point is that the information is out there (and applying just a few tips from the book Crucial Conversations did end up transforming my entire work experience). There is more to life than what you happen to know. And if you realize the vast gap between what you currently know and what you need to know to get what you want, you’d spend less time complaining and more time improving.
…to be continued…
 Crucial Conversations again provides an excellent illustration. Before reading the book, all I had were weak notions of what makes communication successful. After reading it, I have an entire framework for what really happens during a conversation, including the 2 conditions every conversation must meet to feel safe, the top 3 distractions from productive dialogue (and 4 questions you can ask yourself to return to helpful conversation), 2 ways to prepare for any important conversation, and literally dozens of small skills to improve the way I communicate. Did I realize how much more there was to the way I was communicating with my boss after reading it? Heck yes!