Sometimes you have to play the role of a fool to fool the fool who thinks they are fooling you.
Have you ever found yourself in a position where the best option is to pretend you are ignorant?
It can arise under many kinds of circumstances, across a field of possibilities.
In some cases it happens for a political reason. Like being a guest at a Thanksgiving table in which you are invited to someone else’s family event and there is one person who is very loud and opinionated and they are intent on filling you up with whatever topic they wish to espouse about. Two sentences in, you know you are in very deep water, and you have one of two choices… keep your mouth shut and remain politically correct, or speak up and disrupt the rest of the evening.
Or in a work environment during a job interview where the interviewer goes off on a tangent, technical or political or philosophical and your sensibilities are clearly offended, or your depth of knowledge is clearly usurped by another person who is determined to impart their “wisdom” upon you.
It might happen as you are a vendor and you are bidding on a project and the client opts to school you about the subject of which you are the expert, there to impart your wisdom on that client’s behalf.
But the one that is most common is when you are looking to purchase something, have done all of your homework, and are in a discussion with a sales rep who is determined to use the sales script that they have studied to show you the clear path to how your world will improve with their product.
When all of your sensibilities are screaming otherwise, and your intelligence is boiling over on full steam, you are given a great opportunity for your brain to stay one step ahead of your mouth.
This is where you learn to respond instead of reacting. The difference could not be more important in life.
A response is a considered concept, formulated after taking the time to process all that you have heard and calculating how your measured statement will play in the context of the mindset of the other party. This is very much akin to a chess move. With your single move, you must anticipate in advance, all of the possible outcomes the other party will respond to you with, and determine what their most likely response and only then, open your mouth and deliver your statement.
A reaction comes instantly. It plays from your ego and emotion and is, in most cases, a huge detriment. A reaction usually has a cascade of ramifications that can last minutes or a lifetime. Reactions are one of the most costly choices we may ever choose to make in life.
Freedom lies in the gap between the stimulus and your response. In that tiny gap of time, your entire outcome will be determined. There is no shame in extending this time, especially if you need room to really calculate what your best possible outcome might be. And if acting the fool in that moment by feigning your ignorance is the right choice, you must opt for doing so.