One of the things that I did during my time in between jobs was sign up for different courses. One I am still working on revolves around conflict mediation, also known as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
The first thing I learned that every mediator needed to aspire to be three things; Lazy, Dumb and Homeless.
- Lazy, because a mediator must let the participants do the talking and basically sit back and let them take it as far as they can. As long as they are talking, there is progress.
- Dumb, because making assumptions is often what got the opposing parties in their predicament in the first place.
- Homeless, because a mediator can belong to no one.
I thought this was inmensely interesting, completely logical and also incredibly difficult.
It prompted me to rewatch a short vid I once saw in which Simon Sinek speaks about how allowing yourself to be viewed as “the stupidest in the room” can be an important skill (and a precious gift for all the other people in the room).
Check out the video below for context (no more than two minutes).
So, it’s not only about recognizing when things are being discussed that you don’t understand, but also having the balls to say so. Even though you may lose some street cred or be considered “the idiot” by some, you will also be doing a lot of people a favor. Especially when there are people present who do have a reputation to protect, your “stupidity” will provide them with “the for dummies explanation”. They may also have needed and wanted it, but were not willing or able to admit it.
This also reminds me of my 16th century compatriot Erasmus’ book “In Praise of Folly”. What I know of this book comes merely from what I remember from the high school history lessons I had. I have never actually read it. What makes this book interesting is that Erasmus does something in it that was unthinkable for that time: namely criticizing politics, church and society. He gets a way with this by letting a jouster be the one to ask the painful questions everybody is wondering about but dares not utter.
So, start practicing your cartwheel and be the fool we all need!