It’s been three days since I last shared a snarky comment about something training-related. I don’t know if I can go three more days. I suppose I’m just trying to take it one day at a time.
I realize now that training snobbery is a sickness. It took hold of me. I got so passionate about theory or the way I was taught to do something, or maybe the latest cool trick or hack. And nothing else in the world seemed to matter.
I still remember the last time I fell off The Wagon. It was last Friday. In the lunchroom at work. I didn’t have snarky thoughts once… I had them… twice. I’m so sorry.
The first time, I had just put my leftover pasta in the microwave and I was waiting for it to cook. Something caught my eye. It didn’t just catch my eye. It caught me.
A pack of markers. Just sitting on the counter. Generic, Office Depot-brand flipchart markers. I thought to myself: “Who in the world would buy these?! And, good Lord, why?! These aren’t Mr. Sketch. They don’t have hypnotic fragrances like grape or cinnamon. They probably don’t even write very well on paper!”
And then… oh God. I’m so sorry. And then I opened the pack of markers. And I took the cap off the blue marker. As I suspected, it did not smell like blueberries. But it didn’t stink, either. And when I wrote on a piece of paper, it made marks. It was like I had been punched in the stomach. Maybe something that’s not Mr. Sketch can still be effective. My world was shaken.
Then the microwave beeped, snapping me out of this momentary existential crisis.
A co-worker passed by with his dirty dishes. “You all right man? You don’t look so well.” I think I may have turned a bit ashen. I was definitely perspiring.
I grabbed my re-heated pasta and sat at a table, alone. Except for my old friend, a copy of T+D magazine. Any time I really need to feel good about myself, I pull out a copy of T+D and read an article and shout: “I already know that! You’re not teaching me anything new!!” It makes me feel superior.
I was feeling a bit vulnerable at the moment, so I opened that magazine and found the weakest target I could find: Re-visiting the Lecture by James J. Goldsmith. Who advocates for lecture?! I just needed to hold my nose, read this article, and then all the self-aggrandizing, superior thoughts would flow.
I finished the article. Then blackness.
When I came to, I was surrounded by three or four colleagues. “Stop slapping me, I’m not dead!” I shouted to the guy who was slapping me in order to revive me.
I pushed my colleagues away. “You don’t know me! You can’t judge me! Just because I don’t lecture doesn’t make me a bad person! I’m not hurting anyone!” Someone put a gentle arm on my shoulder and told me I was slurring my words.
I ran from the lunchroom. I went to the bathroom and splashed water on my face.
“So this was what rock bottom feels like,” I thought to myself. I didn’t recognize the person in the mirror.
The funny thing is it all started so innocently. I just wanted to help people learn and do their jobs a little better. And then I was at a conference one day and I overheard some more experienced people talking about how the session’s presenter’s handwriting on the flipcharts was too messy. Throughout that conference, there were a lot of whispers from audience members about how they could do something better.
Everyone else was doing it. So I tried it. First it was a snarky comment during a conference session. Then it was a snarky blog post or two. Before I knew it, I was even making snarky comments about a homily in church and I couldn’t look away when the snark and superiority took over various Twitter sessions like #lrnchat and #chat2lrn.
I accept that everyone is entitiled to his or her own opinion. And snarkiness can be contextual and an entertaining way to blow off steam. Problems come, however, when those opinions dismiss the possibility of being open to other ideas. Problems come when those opinions come from a place of superiority or arrogance.
Standing there, looking at myself in the mirror, having hit rock bottom, I realized that the disease of training snobbery (something Litmos’ Brent Schlenker recently described as Instructional Design Bias) is a problem when it limits your willingness to accept other ways of doing things. The T+D article was right on, lecture can be an effective delivery method. The Office Depot markers can get the job done.
Snobbery in any field – whether it’s politics or science or even L&D – is an ugly condition.
The first step to overcoming it is to acknowledge you have it.