There’s nothing worse than someone talking to me like I don’t know anything. Of course nobody likes being talked that way. But for someone with an Enneagram 5 personality type like me, it is an affront to who I am and everything I stand for. Yes, I know this sounds a little melodramatic. Bear with me.
It began when my wife asked me to pick up homeschool paperwork at a school. I asked her specifically what the paperwork consisted of — I’m a 5, I needed to know. “Homeschool paperwork” seemed too ambiguous; what did it even mean? My wife said the person she corresponded with told her just to go to the school office and request homeschool paperwork. So that I did.
I went to the school and requested homeschool paperwork.
The staff gave me a confused look. I felt stupid. Not the kind of stupid you feel when you learn you’re sitting in the wrong classroom on your first day of college but the kind you feel after your teacher gives you an F on a math assignment you thought you victoriously conquered.
They told me they didn’t know what I was asking. I had to explain what my wife said. They still looked confused. They asked questions. I answered them. Back and forth we went. I understand that, to the office staff, I was just some guy asking for something they weren’t familiar with. But the narrative that went through my head said these people thought of me as a poor idiot who clearly doesn’t know anything. I was offended by the end of the conversation.
After a few minutes, they told me the only thing they have is an affidavit that’s required for the child to be registered. This was one sheet of paper, not paperwork! Couldn’t they just say that to my wife?
After this, they proceeded to explain the process, which I already knew. How dare they school me on something my wife and I have researched? I told myself they’re trying to be helpful. I tried to shake off the thought that they saw me as a know-nothing English-as-a-second-language speaker who clearly needs his hands held when crossing the road from stupidity to enlightenment.
My wife shared with me later that one of the people I spoke to is the one who told her to just ask for homeschool paperwork.
I’m going to take a few deep breaths now before I continue.
I don’t just hate feeling stupid; I fear it. Even in situations where I don’t know the subject, I get offended when someone assumes I don’t know it. I feel powerful when I have information and I feel very small when I don’t. No matter how successful and competent I am, not knowing makes me feel incompetent, like I’m not valuable to the world. So when someone talks to me as if I don’t know anything, it brings out my fears and feelings of inferiority.
So how do I get rid of these negative thoughts and feelings? I can’t. It comes with the personality package. Instead, I’ve learned to greet them and then move on. I’m not great at it yet but today, I chose to stop playing in my head the different ways I would demean the office staff with my intellect, and instead appreciate their being patient and helpful for giving me what I needed.
Next time, I’ll do a lot more research before I go anywhere to ask for “paperwork” …