It took me a long time to realise I was good at writing. To be honest, I still struggle to believe what I’ve written is any good until it has been praised by someone else. I never thought I was bad at it, I certainly knew I enjoyed it, but it has taken me years to acknowledge and accept that it is a skill that I have. Why? Because I find it so easy.
At first glance, that doesn’t make sense. If you find something easy, surely that’s because you’re good at it? Yes, yes it does, but I don’t think my brain works that way. I have visions in my head of a classic author, pacing up and down their attic, wrestling with their muse and dragging each genius word out of their very soul before dipping the quill in their ink and setting it down for all of posterity. I mean, Charlotte Bronte didn’t just crack out Jane Eyre in an afternoon. Great writing must be hard-won, and so I assume that whatever I churn out must be a pretty standard state of affairs for most people.
Except that it isn’t. A lot of people don’t know how to write, or at least how to communicate what they want to say in the way that they want to say it. And I didn’t really come to appreciate that until I started editing other people’s work (although, just to point out, I am not referring to our Liberti writers, who are all spectacular communicators!)
But because I’ve done an English degree, and I’m known for being a bit of a grammar nerd, people kept coming to me with their work for me to look at. I’d look over friends’ CVs, essays, articles, blogs and think, “Why on earth have you done it like that?” Or “How could you have missed that glaringly obvious error?” Because to me it was obvious; it was easy to see that a paragraph should move or a sentence should be rearranged.
So I would move paragraphs and rearrange sentences. I would re-write massive chunks of text and hand it back to my friend and say, “Here you go, fixed it.” But when they asked me how I fixed it, or why I had changed certain things, I couldn’t tell them. I just knew it needed changing. I just saw in my head how it was supposed to be. It just came easy to me, which made me good at editing but terrible at giving feedback.
It’s the same reason I’d make a terrible teacher – I’d just get annoyed at the kids for not being able to do it without explaining how. And that’s the problem with the things that come easy to you, you get frustrated with people who find those things difficult. You don’t realise you’re good at that thing, that you have a special talent or gift or personality type that lends itself well to certain tasks. And so you think it’s normal, standard even, to be able to do the things that you do every day, and anyone who can’t manage those things drives you up the wall.
I’ve seen so many relationships strain and struggle because two people are just different, and don’t realise it. Someone who’s great at details gets more and more irate at the member of their team who keeps forgetting to do everything, while that person sees the bigger picture and can’t understand why their team member keeps sweating the small stuff. Extroverts can’t comprehend why introverts don’t like socialising and small talk, while introverts get annoyed at extroverts for their need to externally process everything. Super-productive people can’t abide laziness in others, while those of us who value rest and quality time find productive people too busy and stressed out.
But fortunately, there are lots of ways in which we can try to get out of this mind set and get along a lot better:
Acknowledge your awesomeness: I think we all need to recognise the things we’re good at. Whether it’s listening, cooking, being decisive – there is always something that you are great at, and you just haven’t realised because you find it so easy. But acknowledging your awesomeness makes it easier to cut other people some slack – they can’t help it that they’re not as good as you at that thing.
Find the flip side of their faults: For most negative behaviours, there is an opposite, positive behaviour. People who are loud and dominating are therefore great at helping get a party going when no one wants to mingle. People who do things frustratingly slowly often don’t miss details and are very thoughtful. When I discover someone is really good at something I don’t find easy, I’m often in awe of that ability or talent and that helps to ease the frustration I feel when they’re rubbish at something I’m good at.
See your own shortcomings: For all the things that come easily to you, there will be a bunch of things that don’t. And openly acknowledging that will help to endear you to people who find that annoying, because you’re holding your hands up and recognising it. But it doesn’t stop there. Just because something doesn’t come easily to you, it doesn’t mean you make other people deal with that and never get better. There are skills that I have that I’ve definitely earned the hard way, because out of necessity I’ve had to learn how to do it. We need to say, “You’re really good at that but I struggle with it. Can you help me get better?”
It’s easy to judge when things come easy to you. It’s frustrating when other people get that thing wrong, because you just can’t see how anyone can struggle with that. But you are unique and brilliant. You were made to be exactly the person that you are, and they were made to be exactly the person that they are. That means that you are better than them at some things, and they are better than you at others. But if we help each other out, if we encourage each other about our strengths and help each other improve our weaknesses, maybe getting on with each other will get a little bit easier too.
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, Deputy Editor, Liberti