Ever get caught in a situation where you suddenly felt that everyone else around you was in on something and you were clueless? Or on that occasion when the tables were turned and someone else in the group was the one who didn’t “get it”?
There’s a common reason that this happens, and it’s far beyond the occasional pun or “in-joke” I wrote about earlier. It actually falls under a special subheading under Incomplete Information. We’ll call this subheading
“Things They Didn’t Tell You Because They Didn’t Know Them Themselves”
It is simply the following important Fundamental Principle 7:
»7a: Everyone doesn’t “Get” something;
»7b: Most of us “Get” that we don’t “Get” something, and take steps to
»7c: But some of them don’t “Get” that they don’t “Get” it,
and, short of a miracle, they most likely never will.
– Everyone doesn’t “Get” something …
Face it. Beyond the occasional social situation mentioned just above, there are other things in life that we know we don’t “get.” They’re just different for different people, such as, organic chemistry, or calculus, or TV remote controls, or cooking, or interior decorating, or acceptable fashion color combinations, or credit default swaps, or socially acceptable behavior, etc. Each of us has, or had, something that we just don’t, or didn’t, “get.” We just need to relax and accept this, to recognize it so that we can both deal with it ourselves, and deal with other people in different situations.
On the useful side, just as Incomplete or Missing Information forms the basis for mysteries and crime novels and TV shows, not “getting it” forms the basis for most comedy and humor.
– Most of us “Get” that we don’t “Get” something …
But, and here’s the important part, we recognize this and take steps to compensate for it. For instance, we can
-Learn it. We decide our lives or careers won’t progress and we can’t be productive and fruitful unless we tackle this something and either master it or at least get passable in it; or
-Hire it. If we’re not good at it at work or at home and we need it, we can hire it; or
-Delegate it. If there’s someone already good at it, we delegate it to them, or take it out of the freezer and put it into the microwave; or
-Marry it. The ultimate and simplest solution. Realistically, we have to be careful and only use this option once.
– But some of them don’t “Get” that they don’t “Get” it, and though they think that they “Get” it, short of a miracle, they most likely never will.
A few examples will show how prevalent this is.
-(TV Comedy) Dr. Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory) refusing to switch to a new barber unless his “haircut records” are transferred.
-(Daily Comics and Political Cartoons)
-(Historical) In 1 Kings 12:5-15 when Rehoboam succeeded Solomon as king and consulted the elders who had served Solomon and inquired as to how to answer the people. He ignored their response of, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants,” and instead chose to listen to the young men who had grown up with him. They responded, “Tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier.’ “ This brilliant decision caused the division in the kingdom that plagued Israel and Judah for centuries.
-(Historical) The Pharisees thought they “got it” and were in charge of making sure everyone else “got it.” It took a Damascus Road experience (sort of a spiritual 2×4) for one of them, Paul, to “get it.”
-(Historical) General Custer’s contrasting (vain) image of himself versus his image of and handling of the Native Americans. He lost.
-(Parenting) Parents who do not realize their young children are capable of learning far sooner than they are able to give evidence that they are learning. We once had friends whose son was the same age as ours. They lived in the same small apartment building, and the mother’s language would generally make a sailor blush. Besides bothering us for our child, we looked for a way to suggest to her that it might be better to correct before junior picked it up. “It’s not a problem. I’ll stop when he learns to talk,” was the response. Guess what junior’s first words were. And they got such a HUGE reaction that even though Mommy cleaned up her vocabulary, junior figured out that he could take his show on the road and promptly did.
-(Marriage) We were working with young singles and marrieds a number of years ago and ran a little exercise with both sexes together (intentionally):
Task 1: Write down YOUR five most important things you want in a relationship (scribble, scribble);
Task 2: Now, write down what you think are the five most important things that someone of the opposite sex (your spouse, fiancé, or potential candidate for such) would write down for themselves (in other words, what do you think the opposite sex wrote in Task 1) (scribble, scribble);
Task 3: Now, write down the five things that YOU think are most important for someone of the opposite sex (your spouse, fiancé, or potential candidate for such); (scribble, scribble); and finally,
Task 4: Finally, write down what you think a person of the opposite sex (your spouse, fiancé, or potential candidate for such) would write down as being YOUR five most important things. As most everyone thoughtfully began scribbling, one young man piped up, “Gosh, I never thought of that before.” There were quiet titters from the women.
-(Current Events) In April of this year, Ozzie Guillen, the Miami Marlins baseball manager, a Venezuelan, took a lot of public flack and was suspended because when asked who he admired, he told a Time Magazine interviewer, “I love Fidel Castro.” Huge uproar. What Guillen did not “get,” and most people felt but couldn’t articulate, is the following: Yes (note strong tonal inflection of ‘yes, BUT’), but WHAT Castro did was the result of a negative sum (– ∑) game in which he and other elites benefited and everyone else suffered. The same can be said for every other despot. Two parts contribute to a despot’s results: the Means and the Ends. Regardless of what some others profess (they, too, don’t “get” it), the Ends do not justify the Means. In fact, the Means can negate the Ends. But more on this later.
-(Current Events) A college faculty member, in response to a challenging article proposing that a higher education institution be thought of (and run) as a business with students as the “customers,” responded, “Students are not customers and cannot be.” (All of the comments to the article just reinforce my sense that academics, including faculty, do not “get” that a properly running Higher Education organization runs on ‘business’ principles.)
-(Current Events) Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, on the Obama Health Care Bill: “We have to pass the (health care) bill so you can find out what is in it.” (sigh)
-(Timeless) “What part of ‘No’ do you not understand?”
As long as people who don’t “get it” only appear in social situations they can be dealt with in the short run and avoided in the long run. It’s when they work with you that the greater issue develops.
When these coworkers are on the periphery, like the social situation, they can be tolerated if not marginalized in the area where they are not competent. But the specter of The Peter Principle raises its head and the situation becomes insidious when a person’s incompetency becomes enmeshed in the value adding steps of the organization’s transformation process, or in the management of the people involved in this process. In this situation it’s like having blind people threading needles.
What do you do if the person not “getting it” works for you? Observe, document, speak to the issue fairly, and use Performance Review feedback to reinforce. If it’s a peer? Observe how management responds on their own, and use your opportunity to provide factual input to management during the review preparation process. And if it’s your management? This is a strong sign The Peter Principle is in action. Observe and document. Make yourself useful by making it known you will step into the gaps if needed. And develop Plan B.