Have you ever come across this scenario? You have a flat tire on your bicycle. Maybe you are handy in some ways, but changing the tire on your bicycle is not your strong suit. You bring your bike into a bicycle shop and ask a technician “I have a flat tire, I think I need a new tire.” Only to be met with “You don’t need a new tire, you need a new tube.” Of course, the tube is the thing that inflates the tire which goes on your bicycle wheel, which then goes on your bicycle so you can ride it to Wickford Village. “Oh thanks for clarifying that, I need a new tube. (to yourself “Bike Snob!!!”)” How does this make you feel? How foolish of you to ask for a tire when clearly you need a tube. Some experts can make you feel not so smart, huh?
How about this? You are at a networking event and meet a couple who just joined your local chamber of commerce. You, an avid rock and roll fan with tons of albums, CD’s, and years of singing in the shower, start up a conversation about The Rolling Stones. You talk about your favorite albums, the fact that you have seen them on tour, how much you know about the theory and chord progressions of each song. The couple remains strangely silent as you rant and rave about your extensive knowledge of the Rolling Stones, most of it you procured from online sites and buddies, who also claim to be Rolling Stones aficionados. When you finally stop to ask the couple if they like music and especially the Stones, the couple look at each other, smile, then the wife says “I know a little bit about them, I am a professor of music at University of Rhode Island.” Congratulations, you just met a music expert who, depending on her personality, can now professionally contradict 90% of what you just said.
Or this. You are standing in a group of friends, one of them you know is a doctor. One of the group members starts up a conversation about a professional athlete who had a heart condition. The groups members without the letters “MD” next to their name start to theorize what the name of the heart condition was, how the athlete contracted such a condition, and if that condition in fact affecting his play on the field. The doctor in the group waits his turn. When everyone is finished, the doctor describes in full detail: A) the crossword puzzle worthy, official name of the disease, B) how the athlete contracted it, C) his short and long term prognosis, and D) several hundred other medical facts relating to that disorder as if he were giving a dissertation to a bunch of medical students. The group members not named doctor all look at each other for a moment, until one says “So how about those Celtics?” One point to make – try to avoid conversations with a doctor and attempting to talk intelligently about medicine, if you yourself are not a doctor. FYI, they go to school for a long time and they are really, really smart!!!
Experts are really cool to meet and talk to. A large percentage can be identified by their silence. Most experts that I speak to will wait until you are finished trying to convince him/her that you are an expert before ringing in. Some choose to take the pompous route and make you feel inferior because you are not up to their expert level of knowledge on a subject. Some cannot find the words to make you understand their subject, use an array of 5 to 10 dollar word answers, and so you leave a conversation with that expert none wiser. Others go a step or two beyond and really dumb down their answers to your questions to make you feel even dumber than when you started the conversation. The best can listen, absorb what level you are at, and communicate in an appropriate manner.
I truly love it when I encounter an expert. I have been a huge music fan for decades, yet I have musician friends who can take the subject of music to levels I cannot fathom. I have been in the fitness industry for over 20 years and love to meet experts in nutrition, fitness, and exercise science. As a former bike mechanic, I love talking with technicians at bike shops about new technology, new bike designs, and how the bicycle industry has changed with the times. Just for fun, when I have a flat tire which requires a new tube, I like to ask for a new tire. I love the interaction and how the technician deals with either correcting me – rudely or with class.
An expert can be a great way to build your knowledge base in a certain subject. Or, it can be a frustrating 5 minutes of your life that you wish you had back. The expert that can listen, communicate his/her message clearly, and remain humble is the best kind of expert.