This morning I went back to the farm to exchange the incubator I got for another one – it was running way too hot and nothing we did was getting it back down. She couldn’t believe it was possible for it to be at 120 degrees – she said she’s never seen any of them go above 110. So I repeatedly checked and rechecked, but I still kept getting the same reading, no matter what I did. It turns out that the heating element got jammed at the highest heat (she thinks it might have happened in transport) and wasn’t budging even though we were adjusting the heating dial.
When I exchanged the incubator, I asked a bunch of questions that I could tell seemed unintelligent to the person we got it from, but I really didn’t get how the incubator worked and wanted to be sure we didn’t have any further problems. She responded with brief statements about the incubator as if it was the easiest and most obvious thing to operate – and to her it was – but I kept feeling like I was missing some piece of information that would help me understand clearly what she was talking about. After one comment she made that she probably thought was so obvious she didn’t even need to say it when I picked up the incubator the first time (or more likely she said it and I didn’t have a framework to process it), the light in my brain clicked on and I finally understood what was going on.
As I was thinking about this experience this morning, suddenly I thought about the friend who came by yesterday. When she left I handed her some beef fat and bones to make broth with, and quickly mentioned that the fat had to be rendered and to use the bones for broth. When she asked what rendering means, I realized that I was so used to doing certain things and referencing them in a casual way (or thinking that every post I’ve written on these topics has been read, lol!), that I might have left her feeling inadequate, thanks to my quick instructions that might not have included the right balance of details. Just like the incubator lady and me. In actuality, making broth and rendering fat are a big process until you get it figured out!
When something is second nature to you, it’s so easy to forget that it might not be familiar to another person at all. It might even be really intimidating to them! My personal lesson from today is that I need to gauge the knowledge level of the person asking before making assumptions about what she knows that might leave her feeling foolish (today in response to one of my comments, the woman responded, “that’s why homeschool moms shouldn’t give coop classes” – I definitely felt foolish). That means being balancing the response with the appropriate amount of detail, given at an appropriate pace. That can be a tough balance, particularly for someone like me who speaks quickly!:) But I think it’s important to be aware of so that people don’t emerge from an interaction feeling judged or minimized.
(This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays.)
PS – edited to add that the woman wasn’t intending to be hurtful and I wasn’t insulted; it’s just a different communication style and as I said, when people are comfortable with something, they just don’t realize it’s foreign to someone else. I don’t want anyone thinking negatively even about an anonymous person that I reference!