Today’s Topic: Understanding Others by Being Thoughtful
I have a close friend that I talk with almost daily who does something I couldn’t quite understand until recently. Upon learning that I’m unaware of or don’t know something that they’ve known for quite some time – such as holidays in different countries, history, financial institutions in different countries, market trends, or anything else that they consider common knowledge – they make a big deal out of the situation. They act like it’s incredible that I was completely in the dark about the topic or situation, which makes me feel small and belittled.
There are too many examples to count, but the conversation generally goes:
Friend: “Yeah. X event happened, and that’s why Y.”
Me: “X event? What was that? When was that?”
Friend: “You don’t know? Are you serious? How do you not know this?”
Me: “No, I don’t know about it. I guess maybe I never learned it or forgot about it.”
Friend: “Seriously? How could you have never learned this? Everyone knows this.”
Me: “I don’t. Can you explain it to me?”
Friend: “I guess I have to now, otherwise you won’t understand anything.”
Never mind that fact that this particular friend is over a decade older than I am, and as such has more life experiences as well as general knowledge. I never really paid attention to history in school, and don’t really follow current events in any country even now. The only topics I usually don’t get in trouble for ‘not knowing’ are science, grammar, and entertainment; I’m a lover of movies, TV, Reddit, Imgur, writing, and also majored in Biochemistry for almost four years in college.
The other part that this friend fails to realize is that living in Japan has given me many first experiences that I haven’t had elsewhere else. This is mainly due to the fact that I came to the country only a year after finishing my college degree. I bought my first car in Japan (“How do you not know how leases work?”), started paying my own utilities and bills in Japan (no complaints there since those are pretty straightforward), and owned my first cat in Japan (I was actually the one with more knowledge of this subject since my friend is allergic to cats and is looking into getting a dog in the future). Japan has given me many firsts in my life, but my friend has had the luxury of experiencing most of their adult responsibilities in their home country before coming to live in Japan.
I used to feel so stupid and inadequate whenever this friend would tell me off for not knowing something they considered to be common knowledge to everyone. It hurt me a lot to think that I was so lacking in intellect that this friend would become upset without much provocation just because I didn’t know something that they had known for years.
It took me a while to realize the issue, though I have yet to really talk to my friend about it. I’m still planning on what I want to say so that I can get my point across without being misconstrued. Yet, by having this experience I’ve come to realize that almost everyone makes this mistake at least once in their lives. By thinking that everyone is completely equal and has the same knowledge and experiences, a person is bound to be let down or upset when something they think is so simple and straightforward is actually unknown to someone else.
Not everyone has the same experiences growing up. Not everyone will know the same things, nor have the same knowledge of information. Growing up as an Army brat, I’m sure I know a lot more about military bases, commissaries, ranking systems, and relations between certain branches of the American military than my friend, who grew up in a posh neighborhood and learned about the stock market as a teenager. Yet, if my friend has questions that I can answer with certainty, I always strive to be the bigger person and explain the facts without making them feel ashamed or stupid for asking.
For now, I’d rather not inflict the pain and humiliation upon my friend as they have done to me, because I know how much it hurts. Hopefully, after a frank conversation, my friend will realize what I mean and understand how I feel.