Ready, Setting, Go!

There are these weirdly cool and slightly scary, nonhuman beings in a fantasy series I am currently reading who can attune their internal vibration to various settings. They can choose among things such as amusement, irritation, hope, tension, and many others.

I think humans secretly do this too. I remember once pointing out how a neighbor’s porch seemed to be sloped instead of flat. Another neighbor told me porches were supposed to be that way so water could run off of them. This made sense to me. I assumed it’s so the wood doesn’t rot. But the neighbor didn’t use that moment to teach me, to pass on his knowledge so that I would understand slanted was the norm for a practical reason. He made it obvious that he was disgusted by my lack of knowledge. It was as if he was attuned to derision. Most of us have witnessed a teacher treating one of their students this way, acting as if the student is stupid instead of embracing a teachable moment.

Why do people feel compelled to treat those who don’t know something this way?

Perhaps it makes them feel smarter. Perhaps they assume that because they know something that means everyone else does too. I do not enjoy encountering someone’s derision setting but it does not make me feel stupid. I choose to pocket my learning and whistle walk away from jerks who know more than I do about a particular something.

When I was quite young I went to my mom and showed her a torn cuticle on one of my fingers. I wanted her to fix it. She told me to go get the clippers and cut it. (Let’s ignore the fact that it would have made sense for my mother to cut the cuticle for me.) I went to get the clippers, not the kind used to cut cuticles but rather the nail clippers that look like a smaller version of toenail clippers. I attempted to cut my cuticle and of course ended up with a small bloody mess. I showed my finger to my mother. My mother ridiculed me for using the wrong clippers even though I hadn’t known the other clippers existed. She never bothered to teach me. It was as if she expected me to somehow, almost magically, have all the information she had. I was five. I learned about the other clippers that day and I also learned to ask a lot of questions moving forward. I figured asking questions would probably also make me look stupid to my mother but that looking stupid was preferable to bloody cuticles.

But this isn’t about porches or cuticles, or even about mothers or teachers. It isn’t even about people treating us as if we are stupid or disgusting when we don’t know something they already know. It’s about our own settings. It’s about making sure we don’t auto switch to a derision setting when someone has not yet had the opportunity or the occasion to learn something that we have already learned. It’s about checking our attitude before we speak. It’s about becoming aware of our attitude in the first place. Every setting has its appropriate moment but take a moment and make sure you’ve chosen the right one.

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Cinse Bonino

Cinse Bonino

Cinse, a former professor with a background in the psychology of human learning, writes nonstop, and is addicted to capturing the human experience in words.