Not everyone knows what you know
Everyone knows the things that I know
Sometimes when I am talking to people out and about in the world I forget that all the information floating around in my brain isn’t common knowledge. As I am covering certain topics I notice myself not always giving the full debrief of information because I assume that everyone knows the things that I know. It’s not that I consider myself special or that I have a wealth of knowledge compared to everyone else by any means; rather it’s kind of the opposite.
A great example happened recently when I was talking to a prospective student about our Maternal Support Practitioner program. We were chatting about what was covered in the program and she asked me what was specifically covered on the subjects of infertility and loss.
As I was talking about etiquette and how to support someone who was experiencing infertility I found myself assuming that this was a topic she already intimately understood. I went on to say, “You know how we would never tell someone going through infertility that we could solve their problem for them or that we had the answer to helping them get pregnant.” At this point there was a slight pause in our conversation that I didn’t quite understand. She then shared that she didn’t actually know that and it was something she often told her friends who were going through infertility. I felt like such an ass, as I hadn’t meant to make such a sweeping assumption.
Why we should never make assumptions
Upon reflection, of course I was able to recognize that this “etiquette” wasn’t something that I always knew. I shared with her that I had also made similar comments before becoming familiar with the program. Nevertheless I had completely overlooked the fact that not everyone knows the sensitivity around such topics as infertility and loss. The student was incredibly thoughtful and kind, and we were able to chat more about etiquette and support. And I am delighted to share that she is currently in our Maternal Support Practitioner program.
But this concept of thinking that everyone knows everything we do is not an uncommon experience; I hear it from students all of the time.
If it’s not the curse of knowledge what is it?
While writing this blog I stumbled across a new term called the curse of knowledge, which is a cognitive bias in which as soon as someone has learned and understands a topic, it becomes a common assumption to think that other people have learned and understand it as well.
As I searched for examples of the ‘curse of knowledge’ the only ones I could find referenced experts who had difficulty explaining certain topics because they expected others to understand them as deeply as they do. However, this concept didn’t really seem to capture the feelings of my experience or ones shared with me. Oftentimes for people who identify as women it isn’t that we believe everyone should just know about a topic. Rather, it’s the feeling that the information we hold isn’t very unique or valuable, and therefore everyone probably does know it.
We minimize knows what you know
I talk to students daily who share their knowledge and experiences regarding given topics and they often have no recognition of how brilliant or unique their understanding is. They minimize their expertise and downplay the ways in which they excel. I don’t think it’s the curse of knowledge, so much as it is that as people who identify as women we have learned not to take up too much space, not to ruffle any feathers and not to think too highly of ourselves. So even when we have brilliant and wonderful ideas and conversations to add to the world we somehow end up believing that it is mundane and unimportant; and therefore everyone must know it.
But as someone who has the privilege to talk to so many people I can tell you with 100% confidence that NOT EVERYONE KNOWS WHAT YOU KNOW. Seriously. People do not just know all of the things.
Maybe this is how we start
I am sharing this because it’s quite possible that no one has told you this lately. I wanted to take a minute to highlight that you are brilliant and you know really powerful things that not everyone else does.
In all honesty I’m not quite sure how we can start getting more confident in the brilliance that we bring to the world. But I think one way to start is by taking a step back and acknowledging that we are unique and valuable and that no one can do what we do, the way we do it.
Can you relate to the feeling that everyone probably knows what you know? Do you ever minimize your knowledge? Do you downplay how valuable what you do is? Feel free to share in the comments.
not everyone knows what you know
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