Expressing myself: articulate or all over the place?

Several jigsaw puzzle pieces scattered on a white surface. Some are with the face up while others are with the face down. On the right upper corner there is a partially solved fragment made out of six pieces.Why is it that when I talk to some people about my work I feel experienced, articulate and knowledgeable. My ideas are clear and yet open enough for conversation to flow around them, shifting focus in response to the contributions of others.

And yet when I talk to others about exactly the same work I feel all over the place, think my ideas are unworthy, and feel embarrassed as though I’m a kid that’s blundered into an adult conversation and everyone just staring.

What is it that leads to one set of feelings, and what to the other?

Some of it depends on who I am talking to – and in particular, how much in awe of that person I am. The more credibility, status and general hero-worship I feel towards them, them less status I give to my own knowledge in response.

Some is down to where I am in a process. I’m in a research stage at the moment, constantly finding out stuff I don’t know. It throws me a little – how come there is so much out there I haven’t come across before?

It’s useful to not be ‘the expert’ sometimes. I think many people who work, or have worked, in the consultancy field have this sense that they should know everything all the time within their field. And of course we don’t and can’t but there is still that fear of being found out.

Instead of that, I now have the joy of not knowing, of being right at the bottom of the ‘know anything at all’ pile while I research ideas.

This is a period in my life where not knowing is good, where learning from others is essential. I quite like the fact that one day it all makes sense – the fog appears to be clearing – and then the next, because of something new I have found out, or a new avenue I’ve realised I still have to explore, the fog is back, even denser than before.

What I would like to gain though is confidence in that not knowing. It still feels hard to admit sometimes that I’m not sure, or don’t know. Hard to articulate with confidence that yes, at the moment, I just don’t have an answer to a specific question I might be being asked.

This is one of the things I am concentrating on this week, discussing emergent thoughts with others, getting some things down on paper for R&D bids.  Next week it’s a full on week of research, meetings and general digital-networkness down at Digital Bristol. Plenty of people to admit I know nothing to there!

It feels like putting together a jigsaw. I can only speak with authority about the pieces I own, but I need to know something about the territory around me that others have mapped to make sense with my piece. At the moment I’ve not quite got the edges in place – but it will come, I just have to give it time.

Photo by Horia Varlanand remember if you have enjoyed this and want to read more, you can subscribe to Jo Verrent’s blog by email.

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