I have to be honest with you is one phrase I hate to hear in meetings or in personal conversations. As much as I love to have people be honest with me all of the time, I have started noticing that this phrase is usually used by people who act like jerks. Humility and honesty are the most important attributes when selecting a friend. Nobody likes fake people. Nobody likes people who are not humble. When I was young, I had low self-esteem that made me want always to show people that I was smart and that I knew a lot. In fact, this desire was the impetus to read books so that I could show off my knowledge. My reading and accruing knowledge worked. I did indeed attract attention which bolstered my ego. I can now say from an older vantage point, that after years of working hard and accumulating experience with life, I no longer care about attracting attention. I replaced this desire of being noticed to being humble and trying hard to understand people rather than seeking people to understand me. To understand people, I started noticing that people exhibit a wide range of knowledge. Some of them know a lot and some really don’t know much although keeping up the pretense.
I decided to explore how to distinguish these people. The people who don’t know but pretend to know are seen to have chauffeur knowledge. The history of this expression is an interesting one. It is related to the story of the physicist Max Planck. After he won the Noble prize, he was invited to deliver talks — which he did at academic institutions all over Germany. He would be driven by his chauffeur who asked him one day if he could deliver the talk since he had watched Max Planck deliver it many times. Max Planck was curious and interested in the offer. He agreed to wear his chauffeur’s uniform and allowed his chauffeur to deliver the talk. After delivering the talk successfully, the chauffeur took a question from the audience that he was unable to answer because of its difficulty. The chauffeur responded by saying, “Well I’m surprised that in an advanced city like Munich I get such an elementary question. I’m going to ask my chauffeur to reply.”
The real lesson in life is how can you tell if someone has chauffeur knowledge vs the real knowledge. The person who has experience in the topic usually answers the question by saying, “I don’t know.” In a way, a person who declares their ignorance is the person who most likely knows more than anybody in the room. Whereas the people who do not know, always tell you that they know the answer to the problem, and they are confident that they have the solution. Therefore, I would caution you from these people, and now you know how you can spot them.
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