Are you a “conscious incompetent?” This is the individual who knows they don’t know. As a result, they’re always seeking knowledge and learning new things. They understand that’s how they grow and evolve as a person.
There’s another person that we should be aware of, and that is the “unconscious incompetent.” They simply don’t know that they don’t know. This type of individual believes they have all the answers, and you can’t tell them anything.
Now I must admit: When I was a teenager, I thought I knew it all too. Nobody could tell me anything, well except Arnold: my best friend’s dad. If someone told me something that went against what I believed, I blew them off. It was clear to me they didn’t know what they were talking about!
Even though I was still living at home and had zero responsibilities, I had everything figured out. Despite my lack of real world experiences, my belief in how the world should work was all that mattered.
It wasn’t until later in life that I realized how wrong I was. I wasn’t just wrong, I was lost.
Am I the only one who felt this way?
As I reflect on past experiences, there’s one phrase that I keep repeating to myself:
I wish I would’ve listened.
There have been plenty of times where I shrugged off advice because I thought my way was the best (and only) way. Boy was I wrong.
I was the king of unconscious incompetents back in the day, but now, I’m keenly aware that there is A LOT I do not know, and I can obtain valuable information by simply listening to others. While I’m not surprised that kids and young adults are conscious incompetents, I’m shocked at the number of adults who still think this way.
Listen and Learn
No one is as deaf as the man who will not listen. Proverb
This is where effective listening comes into play. If we want to accomplish anything in life, we must understand there’s a lot we don’t know. Some people may think admitting this is a sign of weakness, but that’s not the case. It’s actually a sign of strength and improves their ability to grow.
- Would you go to a doctor who prescribed medicine without letting you describe your symptoms?
- Would you hire an attorney who refused to hear your side of the story because they’ve “seen a million cases like yours” before?
Chances are both of these individuals will soon be out of business if they keep that attitude. How many of us have similar attitudes but don’t realize it?
Refusing to listen can affect us in many aspects of our lives, both on the job and in our personal relationships:
Business. Lack of listening in business can affect employee relationships and the company’s bottom line:
- Loss of trust and loyalty. It is difficult for employees to trust someone who doesn’t listen. This can prompt them to seek employment elsewhere.
- Decrease in shared ideas. Few employees will share ideas if they perceive their boss as someone who knows everything and refuses to listen to subordinates. This can cause the business to stagnate.
Personal. Not listening to your significant other can put the relationship in jeopardy:
- Increased frustration. Having a partner who knows everything and won’t accept your input can cause anger, resentment and frustration.
- Partner becomes distant. Partners who are unable to share their thoughts may become distant, which can increase tension in the relationship.
- Loss of desire. Being involved with someone who thinks they know everything could be a turnoff, putting a strain on the relationship.
Benefits of Knowing You Don’t Know
Once a person realizes they don’t know everything, they may want to learn more. As a result, they become receptive to listening to others. This can help them in a variety of ways:
They gain respect. Listening to others can give them the respect and admiration they never had before.
Discover new things. Listening to others can open a new way of thinking, increasing their ability to learn.
Improved relationships. By letting others speak their minds, a residual effect is improved interpersonal relationships both at home and at work.
- Accept the fact that you don’t know everything. This is one of the first step to learning new things and becoming an effective listener.
- Try to learn something from everyone you encounter. Everyone is an expert at something. Give them the opportunity to show you. Ask questions.
- Step out of your comfort zone. By doing something new, you will be forced to obtain information on how to complete the task. This is an excellent way to talk to others and allow them to educate you on something new.
- Discover the conscious competence learning model. The conscious incompetent is just one part of this fascinating theory. Want to learn more? Read about it here: conscious competence learning model.
Sometimes, we don’t listen because we think we know everything. Are you an unconscious incompetent? By taking a step back and observing the world around us, we can truly begin to listen and learn more than we ever imagined.
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