I don’t know what you do – don’t assume you know what I do

A frustration I’ve had over the years is when an attorney, a claims adjuster, a paralegal, or even a vendor of ours acts as though he/she knows how to do my job, our job. I’ll never forget the story Melissa, and others on our consulting team, told me of a case for which I was not present. When our staff arrived early in the morning, the client/attorney had rearranged the room we had the facility set to our specifications the night before. The attorney’s configuration would have made our day very difficult and dangerous (trip hazards anyone?). I frequently get questions about issues that are within our purview as to the why’s and how’s about mock jury research. I really do not mind answering the questions, even though I’ve heard some of them thousands of times. What I do mind, however, is the challenges implying that the person asking the question knows the answer better than we do, about how to do what we do. I have felt, at times, saying, “I don’t know what you do, or how you do it, so please let me do what I do know about to help you.” I’ve never had the nerve to go that far, but is clear that some people do not know what they don’t know, or their own limitations. Knowing one’s limitations is, to me, critically important in life. Knowing what you don’t know and learning from those who do know should always be a better approach than interjecting and trying to tell the expert what to do.

I have never understood why someone who “knows it all” bothers to retain my services, thereby paying for my expertise. After all, if one truly knows everything there is to know, what could be the benefit derived from paying someone to find out something already known? Wouldn’t it be better to merely bask in one’s high opinion of oneself, perhaps, gazing in the mirror fondly from time to time? I have lost count of the number of times when an attorney, or a claims adjuster, or a risk manager, etc. tells me how to perform my job. As anyone who knows me will understand, telling me how to do my job will never result in a positive reaction from me. I usually try to defuse the situation by saying something like “I know I look like I just earned my Ph. D., however, I have been performing my job for decades”; or “Oh, I didn’t realize you have Ph. D. in social psychology! From what university did you earn it?”; or, my personal favorite, particularly when said with a strong Florida Cracker accent, “We-elll, you might not believe this, but this ain’t my first rodeo!”. My job is challenging enough without someone telling me to tell my staff to record the mock jury deliberations; this is, of course, something we have done thousands of times. Just as I refrain from telling my handy person how to repair my leaky sink, or the painter the thickness with which to paint my walls, or the mechanic how to repair my car, I appreciate those clients who hire me for my expertise, then trust me to perform my work in the excellent manner in which I always perform it. Telling an expert how to do something at which he/she has expertise will never result in a positive relationship, particularly if that expert happens to be me!

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