Thursday, May 31, 2012
The terror and relief of admitting cluelessness
It’s terribly stressful to pretend you know what you’re doing all the time. Not only does it tax a person’s acting skills, which may not be all that great to begin with, but it leaves us without any opportunity to stop, look around, and take a few moments to try and understand the mess we’ve just gotten ourselves into. People who want to look like they know what they’re doing don’t dare slow down, because they’re already supposed to have figured it all out and should be charging ahead getting things done. So you barrel on, panicked because you can’t admit to anyone that you don’t have the slightest idea what’s happening.
It’s infinitely easier, I’ve found, to be able to admit to being completely clueless on occasion. Most people will respond at least reasonably well to comments like “I’m embarrassingly lost. Can you please tell me how to get to [insert name of wherever it is here]?” or “This exploded and I don’t know what happened. Please fix it.” I’ve never asked them, but I believe that most people are kind in these circumstances because they hope that someone else will be if they ever need to admit cluelessness.
Doing so can make you feel more than a little vulnerable – high school flashbacks, I think – and there are times it can be downright scary. But it can also be such a relief to stop, give someone else the steering wheel for just a few moments, and figure out how to get back to that patch of road you know so much better than you do this one.