A Human Common Err?

Do you think it is a human err to assume everyone is at the same level as you are? This is difficult to opine about without actually falling into the trap itself. So I will make it personal and see if anyone else struggles with this problem. I tend to assume that because I have reached a level of understanding everyone else already arrived. It’s as if I expect to be the last one to the party.

Here’s one example. When I was in High School we studied Shakespeare’s Macbeth. As the epitome of a nerd, I rather enjoyed it and loved imagining the story details. During summer break I worked at K-Mart. One evening a customer headed to the cash register with a couple of large plants in her cart. The plants were tall and all I could see were the tops of the leafy greens heading my way. When the customer reached my register I quipped about the trees “coming against” me.

It really was one of my finer moments. That must be why I still remember the moment after all these years. My wit was spot on. I assumed that because I learned about Shakespeare everyone else must have also known my reference.

The problem, of course, was I quoting Shakespeare. In a K-Mart. In a small Wyoming town. No, the customer did not get my joke. At least, judging by the look she gave me she did not get it. My joke fell flat and I scanned her large house plants and sent her on her way. How could she not get my joke?

In this particular case, it was only a joke that was missed. But assuming rather than communicating can end up in frustration. It will quickly cause a rift and may lead to feelings of annoyance or even anger. Thus deepening the miscommunication hole.

The point is we are all at different levels of understanding. The trick, I suppose, is to condescend to another’s level without being condescending. Similarly, to elevate to another’s level without being fake. We are all processing the world around us and taking things in. That’s what makes life so beautiful, we have opportunities to try and see it through someone else’s lens if we try.

I just know that personally sometimes I am the last to the party. But sometimes I might be the first. I’ll turn the light on for you if you promise to do the same for me.

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