I know how to behave at a social gathering – when to shake hands, make eye contact, or tell a joke. I know how to navigate a networking breakfast or how to prep for a job interview.
When I walk into a room, I can figure out how to act almost immediately. I know who to approach by what they’re wearing, or who they’re talking to. I know where to sit, or how to figure out where to sit. I know when it’s appropriate to speak loudly, and when to whisper.
My access to the unspoken, unwritten rule book of life means that I can successfully navigate a lot of situations without giving them a second thought.
I imagine you can too.
But not everyone can. And it’s not for a lack of trying, or caring.
It’s time we acknowledge that not everyone knows the rules. It starts by empathizing with where they’re coming from, and what they’ve had to overcome to get there. Try understanding that just because a person isn’t fluent in the hidden language of life, it’s often not an accurate marker of who they are as a person – their loyalties, skills, compassion, potential.
If my knowledge of the hidden rules is a result of luck, of where I was born, or the people that I grew up with and know, then someone’s ignorance of them is something that can be, with some empathy and work, rectified. Instead of making fun of someone’s lack of knowledge, maybe I can help guide them along, giving them access to the stuff that’s made my life relatively effortless.
You can help change the conversation by sharing what you've learned with others.