That’s a ridiculous statement, obviously. But, I’ve actually met people who would argue to the death that they know everything. I’m sure many of you have, too.
For example, I guy I knew once “grew” an Irish accent (a terrible one) every time he drank Jameson because he wanted to be Irish (unless I see 23andMe results stating otherwise I’m sticking with he most certainly wasn’t). This guy also claimed he was an ex-Special Forces Operator (trainee) who once ate a scorpion during a training exercise in order to avoid being caught. His training records and less-than-operator-status physique argued otherwise. But not everyone is pathological. Some people just… I don’t know.
I can’t really speculate as to why some people feel the need to overly embellish or seem all-knowing. Maybe it’s pride, maybe it’s insecurity, maybe it’s peer pressure. I don’t know. I just know it’s wrong. People see through BS. In safety, too much of it will turn people off to the message.
Personally, I stop listening to the message and looking for the errors when I know people blow smoke. Even if they have something worth listening to I miss it. That’s a shame, and admittedly partially my fault. My point though, is that credibility is on the line every time we talk. Its been my experience that you can get a lot more of it by being honest about what you know. And what you don’t know.
I had some fun with this one
This past weekend I shot my second “Safety Snake Bite” video for safeopedia.com. Check it out below or on their YouTube channel. Give it a watch and let me know what you think. And if you’re interested in reading the original account of when this took place (I really didn’t make it up), check out this post: https://relentlesssafety.com/you-call-that-safety-training/
The video was a lot of fun, but I think the topic deserves even more attention. I talk with other professionals, read, research, and ponder safety just as much (if not more than) as anyone. This topic didn’t so much pop into my head as it has been sitting there waiting for years. It simply amazes me that there are so many who would rather wing-it than learn it. That’s a disservice for more than one reason:
- As previously mentioned, people know when you’re full of it.
- I once sat in a meeting in which a particular type of consulting was being proposed for a company. One of the participants chimed in and said “I’ve dealt with these types 8 specific times in my career. One was great, two were awful, and the other four were just so-so.” Anyone with basic math skills could tell he was making up his example. I don’t remember anything else he said and would wager no one else does either.
- False information perpetuates itself.
- Anyone who’s worked in the safety field knows it’s hard enough to get the right message to stick. Every time one of us makes up a rule or gives out incorrect guidance, it plants a seed that may grow into a mess people have to wade through on their way to safe work.
- We owe people good information.
- In theory, regardless of who the recipient is, the information a safety professional shares is going to be used to aid in safely completing work. If our guidance is faulty, so too might be the work plan.
If you’ve never thought about your credibility, maybe it’s time to consider what you say. Everyone will be incorrect at times, and that’s fine. Learning and growing should be our focus though. People who get stuck thinking there’s only one way to things have a hard time doing that.