When Someone Doesn’t Get it, That Person May be You!

April 1, 2011

(or) A Good Pass Is One That’s Received, but Why Make the Pass?

“Dewd, you don’t get it! You don’t even have GPS! How can you not have an iPhone? How can you not see how awesome they are?”

I gave Rob the same look I always do. He’s a heck of a salesman, so he grew even more incredulous. “You have no idea how much it will change your life! Get out of the dark ages! You’re a smart guy; how are you not getting this?

The concept of “getting it” comes up a lot for me. I’m a huge believer in the power of awareness because, without it, we don’t know that we need to change. Some people need to be scared into awareness by hitting a bottom or suffering immense pain. I’ve always believed that we shouldn’t have to wait for something awful to happen to take stock of our lives (become aware), see where the issues are, and then devise a plan to fix them.

The two words in that last paragraph which have really made me think are “change” and “fix.” Does anyone really need to change or be fixed? Better question: do I need to change or be fixed? Who’s to say that I and everyone else can’t simply be as is, without being made aware of our flaws. And to even call them “flaws” doesn’t reflect that our greatest weaknesses are typically our greatest strengths.

I’ve lost a once beautiful head of hair agonizing over how to make people get it. Since my basketball coach taught me that a good pass is one that’s received, I take the time to walk in the shoes of the receiver so I can fine-tune my message so that it’s understood. I take this concept so far that my ego gets caught up in making sure the receiver gets the message, that failing to do so means that my pass/delivery was flawed. That’s when I go back to the drawing board and think, think, think on how I can better present the information. The typical result is the other person still doesn’t get it and I make myself crazy.

Consider Rob’s pain in my failing to receive the message about the benefits of an iPhone. If his ego were caught up in it, he could blame himself, which would be insane because I’ve already made up my mind. But let’s back up: do I really need to change or be fixed? As it is, I have some solid reasons for not having an iPhone: health (I wrote a column about the many perils of cell phones, plus Tim Ferriss just documented the impact on sperm count in his book The 4-Hour Body), cost (plus I avoid fixed costs with contracts as much as possible), environmental impact of more bandwidth, and my desire to be more present, among other reasons.

Rob shakes his head because my lack of awareness–and here’s the big point–according to his perception, makes my life worse. The reason he’s willing to let this go is that it doesn’t impact his life much. Albeit not as fast as most, I can still text. I’m generally on time and get where I need to go. And there’s the rub. The desire to change or fix others by bringing them awareness (or having an intervention or sending them to a therapist or recommending a diet) is often driven by our desire to have others behave in such a way that is more beneficial to us. Selfish bastards that we are.

I’m sure you could hardly finish that sentence without thinking of dozen examples that prove it wrong. I’m only telling Bill to stop drinking so much for his own good. I’m only telling Susie to read that book because I know it will change her life. I’m (and this is me talking) only telling anyone who will listen not to use a microwave or artificial sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup (and the list goes on) because it will make them feel and look better.

Let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water. Certainly if someone is hurting you physically or emotionally, you owe it to yourself to tell that person. People who love you often aren’t aware of what they’re doing and communicating gives them a chance to treat you the way you want to be treated. It’s usually a win-win.

I also still believe that in the right context, offering awareness for someone else’s benefit can be a beautiful gift. I know a guy who was smoking a cigarette on the beach and a stranger approached him and said, “So why are you trying to kill yourself?” This question was a catalyst to heighten his awareness, and he’s never smoked since. My brother told me that I say “I mean” too much when I speak and I’ve corrected this gaff and become a well-paid professional speaker. I read Dr. Mercola every week to become more aware, and it’s helped me improve my health and fitness. I’m still pro-awareness.

The difference is that now I stop to ask myself why I want to offer it. If it’s a gift to someone I love, I’ll offer it. But if it’s a request to change or fix something so that I benefit, I recognize that (through awareness!) and keep my mouth shut. Truth be told, I don’t think Rob gets how toxic and damaging iPhones (or any cell phone for that matter, especially if you want to have kids) are. I say this not to induce a debate on cell phones, but to point out that none of us really know what’s best for anyone else. Getting it could not be more subjective.

The next time you’re frustrated trying to make someone get it, ask yourself why it’s so important. Then ask yourself if anyone needs to be changed or fixed. Lastly, ask yourself who will benefit from getting it. Get my drift?