How to convey knowledge without alienating your partner
Have you ever delighted in sharing your expertise, only to be surprised by a cold response? Despite our passion about the subject, we may unknowingly lack connection to the person we’re talking to or have an attitude of superiority.
The mind is a wonderful thing. It gives us a sense of understanding and control in the world. Yet, the mind is in the realm of logic, facts, and objectivity. So, it’s easy to be logical, cool, and objective when conveying knowledge. Remaining in the realm of the mind can cause us to forget that both expert and novice are human beings with feelings and desires. When people feel as though they are lesser-than information-receiving vessels to be filled, they may feel objectified or alienated.
Basing your identity on the mind
Some people who particularly value the mind have come to base their identity and sense of adequacy on their mind. Their sense of self-worth then depends on being in the position of expert. When they are not conveying knowledge, they may feel adrift or inconsequential.
It helps to develop some warmth and ability to connect with people in order to best convey knowledge. In learning how to simply “be” with another person without teaching them, the relationship becomes more energetically alive. And they’ll feel more at ease whether they’re in the position of expert or not.
The psychology expert
Amateur psychologists as well as therapists have to be particularly careful not to use their knowledge to preach to, decipher, or label others. Even when such labeling is accurate, it feels demeaning to be scrutinized, dissected, and analyzed. Being told we are dysfunctional or codependent doesn’t inspire love, passion, or functionality. In fact, it will probably undermine any vestiges of passion. When we analyze others, we dehumanize and objectify them—that is, we look at them like rats in a lab.
Analysis of someone’s psyche leaves out that which is lovable in a person—their ineffable essence.
Understanding the psychological dynamics in our lives can help us enormously and allow us to improve our relationships. Yet, each person has to be in charge of his or her own psychological process. We can share our own experiences or describe how a psychological theory has been illuminating for us. But rather than label our partners, we should attempt to see the beauty in them, even beneath the pain and the flaws. Ideally, we enrich another’s life only by reciprocal connection and respect for each other’s autonomy.
Imagine that Sheila’s partner Brian is frustrated with his boss. Sheila asserts that he’s having a mid-life crisis and is rebelling against his boss’s authority as he rebelled against his father as a child; it is time for him to grow up. Will Brian react positively to her analysis of him? Unlikely.
Instead, Sheila might help Brian explore his various feelings regarding the situation—if he’s willing to do so, that is. She might share her experience in a similar situation or even make some suggestions, but without an attitude of expertise about his psyche, and without secretly trying to manipulate him.
How do we know if we are alienating our partners?
The listener’s reactions generally tell us whether we’re speaking without any linkage and life force. If your listener has glazed-over eyes, you can bet that there’s no connection between you. If your listener is angry and rebellious, or cold and withdrawn, chances are you have an attitude of superiority.
Some listeners become acquiescent, which is a dynamic that may feel good to both the expert and the novice for a short while. Yet, subservient adulation is eventually draining and tiresome for the listener. You may remember the movie “The Squid and the Whale,” when the older son finally wakes up to the fact that worship of his father’s writing capabilities has not led to any sort of satisfying, reciprocal relationship.
How can we effectively convey knowledge?
The most precious gift we can give another is our presence in the moment. Great communication involves keeping in touch with what is alive in us and what is alive in the other. This is also known as “being” with another person, and is much more appreciated than doing something to them, such as lecturing, improving, or showing off to them.
Communication from the heart is epitomized by Martin Luther King’s riveting “I have a Dream” speech—a far cry from detached, dogmatic droning. The speech speaks volumes over and above the remarkable content, because the connection King has with his own heart and that of the audience is alive with nuance, energy, and passion. Although we all have our own style, some quiet and others outspoken, we can move our own mountains by keeping in touch with that which moves within us and within others.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD
“The Voice Dialogue Series” (CDs), by Drs. Hal and Sidra Stone.
“The Rational Mind” and “The Psychological Knower” (CDs,) by Drs. Hal and Sidra Stone.