A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the Dunning-Kruger effect.
Today I’d like to offer a corollary: The more I think I know, the more I don’t realize what I don’t know.
Hang in with me just a second and with any luck here, this will make sense.
Sometimes the problem is not that we don’t know something, but rather not realizing that there’s something more that we need to know.
For example–and this one this one is near and dear to my heart as kidlet#3 has lost 10 lbs since yesterday throwing his guts up with food poisoning–Food safety.
With all the weather we’ve been having, there’s been power outages all over the city, so fridges and freezers have been off for varying amounts of time, in some cases rendering food really unsafe to eat.
Granted, I often consider what my teen-aged male kidlets eat as ‘unsafe’–as in what’s the oozy green stuff you put on that meatloaf and mac&cheese sandwich? But that’s really more a matter of taste that true food safety.
On the other hand, having taken kitchen management courses, I KNOW there are conditions of time and temperature that render food unsafe to eat. So when a friend called to tell me her friend–the one with medical conditions and frail health–had been without power for over 24 hours and wasn’t planning to throw anything out of the fridge, I was a little alarmed. After all, the food didn’t smell funny and it was covered with fuzzy, oozy things, so it was fine right?
Ah, no. Not so much.
Yeah, the apples and the bread, no problem. But the restaurant left overs and the sausage you’ve had in there two years now–please for the love of all that’s healthy, get rid of it.
I’m pretty sure the fact that some restaurant didn’t do that is why kidlet is carrying around a bucket with him every where he goes at the moment. He’s miserable and it’s inconvenient, but he’ll be fine. The friend’s friend I mentioned, in frail health, could end up hospitalized or much worse for the same thing.
Assuming that they knew what good food looked/smelled like and not knowing what they didn’t know about food safety could have cost them dearly.
This sort of thing happens all the time, thinking we know enough to make good decisions only to discover what we didn’t know is charging at us teeth bared to bite us … yeah, there.
I think it shows up at its worst when we react to people not even thinking about what we didn’t know about their particular situations. I can think of several times recently where I’m so glad I kept my mouth shut and didn’t let the first dumb words just fall out of my mouth.
Like with the young gal at the bunco game who wasn’t paying attention and was saying some kind of dumb things in the conversation. I was a little annoyed and had a couple of clever things to say, but just let it go. Turns out she had just spent the last two days moving her and her kids out of her home after her husband beat her up. Again. I think she had a pretty good reason to be distracted.
Or my friend that I was impatient with because she wouldn’t do anything if it meant her husband would be left alone. My first reaction was that she was clingy and immature. No, he had a serious sex addiction and would call escort services and prostitutes if he was by himself. And then the gal I thought was being petty when she was looking for ways to charge a little bit for some advice she was giving. I was so glad I didn’t criticize her when I found out she was trying to make ends meet with a monthly income that barely made it out of three digits.
In all of those cases, discovering what I didn’t know about what people were going through made a huge difference in what people’s actions really meant and how I should be reacting to them. I’m just glad in these three cases, I was at a place in my life where I could at least keep my mouth shut and wait to find out more. There have been plenty of times I haven’t and I regretted it, deeply. So, now I’m resolved to choke back those first often snarky reactions and get to know the rest of the story.
What about you? Have you ever gotten frustrated with someone only to realize you didn’t really know what was going on?