In this monthly missive, you’ve read about two states we present to our world. One state—the Knower/Judger (K/J)—is purely learned, reactionary, and emotional. It pretty well defines how we present ourselves to the world. It is observable for many of us through various behavioral assessments, such as DISC and Myers/Briggs. They help us and those around us understand how we will act in various circumstances. Aggressive-Passive, Compliant-Rebellious, People- or Task-Oriented, etc. These assessments are wonderful for improving communications on teams.
The other state in which we present ourselves—the Learner/Researcher (L/R)—is innate, present, and rational. It’s visible when we set aside our opinions on things and open our minds.
For most of us, operating in our L/R is rare. Why? It’s not easy. Operating in the K/J is easy because it happens in our “comfort zone.” Yet some of the biggest changes we might want to make, or lessons we need to learn, require us to set aside our “normal” response and open up to new information. That requires us to choose our L/R.
So where do these states or “personas” come from? How do I have these two operating systems? And when is one more useful than the other?
First, it’s necessary to understand that everything we use in our K/J has been learned. Our K/J contains our rule of life, which we learned from our early environment (Mom, Dad, teachers, other grown-ups in our lives, through playground politics, etc.). Our K/J contains all of our automatic responses to things that happen to us, which is why they’re described as reactionary. In our K/J lies all the decisions we’ve made along the way on important matters like:
- Right and wrong
- What we like to do vs. don’t like to do
- What comes easy vs. hard
- What’s fun vs. work
- What we’re willing to settle for vs. what we’re not willing to settle for
- What we expect of ourselves vs. what we expect from others
- What we’re attracted to vs. what we’re repelled by
- How to get what we want
- Whether or not we can get what we want
- How to make enemies vs. how to make friends
- How to please people
- Whether or not we can please people
- How to get people to do things for us
- How to succeed vs. fail
- How to become accepted
- Whether or not we can be accepted
- The types of people we like
- The types of activities we like
- Whether or not we’re going places in our lives vs. whether or not we’re stuck
So, you see, operating on my K/J makes life easier. I don’t have to stop and make any decisions on most things because I know what to do. I know my nearly automatic response.
On the flip side, the L/R is the antithesis of the K/J. For the L/R, “doubt” enters in. In order to operate successfully in our L/R, I need to be able to at least temporarily abandon K/J knowledge and see the world with no filters, no judgment, and no preconceived idea of how to respond. It’s tough. It’s also the only state under which I can actually learn something that differs from my K/J understanding of things. It allows me to look at any circumstance as a blank slate, and learn from it.
Did I just say “learn” from it? Yup! We learn our K/J from our L/R! How’s that for a conundrum?!
As an infant, I didn’t have a K/J. How could I? I had no experiences. I had no lessons in life. I did have a fully functional L/R, however. I quickly learned how to tell Mom I’m hungry, and so started the establishment of my K/J. Depending on how Mom handled my crying, or my “cute face” or my wiggling, I learned which to use to get fed. Life lesson #1! And so it goes. My L/R kicked in specifically to establish my growing K/J. Successfully engaged, my K/J will work for me for the rest of my life. I make decisions, on how life works, from my L/R and then I lock them into my K/J.
So now I’m 30, 40, 50 years old… and maybe I struggle with some aspects of life. Some of my K/J “rules of life” aren’t getting me what I want, or they’re running afoul of what I need to move ahead.
Understand that those K/J decisions were made a long time ago in a galaxy far away, with data that was perceived most likely as a child. The world isn’t the same today. The data is different. The rules might benefit from revision. The L/R is the only conduit to that change…