(Snob: a person who believes that their tastes and knowledge in a particular area are superior to those of other people.)
As a high-performer, you strive to learn new and effective strategies to enhance your life both professionally and personally. As you pick up these skills and insights and gain positive results, you begin to notice when other people are lacking this knowledge or skill set. This awareness puts you in danger of becoming a snob and you are officially recognized as a snob when you begin to judge others as being less than you because they don’t know what you know or do what you do.
This often happens when people gain new knowledge and expertise. They learn “proper” table manners and begin to look down on others who don’t hold their forks correctly. They learn a new religious or cultural custom and begin to show disdain for those who break the custom. They laugh at those not properly dressed for the occasion. This feeling of superiority and lack of empathy for others can hurt not only your relationships but also people’s perception of you.
Another more nuanced way people unknowingly become snobs is when they feel compelled to share their new knowledge with those around them. They do so with the good intention of helping others and there is nothing wrong with sharing knowledge – it’s when and how you do it that decides whether the other person will see you as being helpful or as a snob.
So how can you avoid being a snob when you learn something new?
- Share your knowledge only if the other person wants to hear it – for some people, there is nothing more annoying than unsolicited advice
- Offer your newfound insights as an option to be chosen rather than a rule to be followed
- Understand that the new strategy, mindset or behavior you’re recommending may work for you, but not for others because everyone is different
- Even if experts agree that what you’re recommending is “better”, don’t make the other person feel inadequate by devaluing their views or calling them ignorant
One simple guideline that helps me internalize these tips:
Give the other person choice AND respect their choice.
Share your positive experience and leave it up to the other person to choose what they want to do with it. Don’t see them as ignorant or less of a person because they disagree with you or choose not to adopt what you see as the better way of working. Your sincere respect for others should be reflected in both your words and actions.
Another way to avoid sounding close-minded or elitist, is to stay away from the following words:
Because every one of us is unique, absolutes typically don’t work. To connect with others, acknowledge that we are all different yet equal and entitled to our beliefs and choices. Unfortunately, this point is easy to forget because society rewards certain behaviors and punishes others. What is “good”, “right” or “successful” depends heavily on the context you’re in.
A helpful way to thrive in this subjective world might be to assume that:
Everyone is doing the best they can with what they’ve currently chosen to believe as truth.
This will bring out your empathetic side.
Give it a try next time you:
- See someone improperly dressed for an event
- Disagree with the ideas or policies of your firm’s leadership
- Interact with someone who is missing all of the social cues you’re sending
Final piece of advice to keep in mind:
Your truth is as legitimate as mine – opt to educate as opposed to convert.
Photo by Deutschen Theater Berlin