It’s funny the assumptions we make. The more we interact with people the faster we get at lumping someone new into a bucket. We use heuristics to keep us from taking an interminably long time to come to decisions or form assessments of situations but when we apply them to people, particularly people that don’t fit the molds we’ve formed in our minds, a funny things happens – we get it entirely wrong.
I’m been on both sides of this quick judgment and in most cases the same issue is at play, mistaking curiosity for a lack of understanding. In our culture, bravado and a sickening desire to impress have created an environment where a person who seeks to learn from other’s experiences is often viewed as having a lack of understanding (the inverse is this situation occurs when someone understands something about the subject and then spends far too long trying to prove it to the ‘mentor’). Ironically, I’ve found, that most people who truly seek to understand something don’t stop pursuing truth once they grasp the concept rather they continue to turn over every rock they can to find new nuggets that enhance their mastery of the subject. On the flip side, when I meet people who purport mastery the extent of their expertise is usually limited to the exact situation for which they experienced or else its dated expertise that stopped being relevant once they believed they knew all that could be known about a subject.
So, I guess my takeaway is, if someone approaches you for mentorship and seeks expertise and insight take a moment to understand whether they are seeking a preliminary understanding of something or if they’re well versed on the topic and looking to add depth or breadth to their mastery of the subject. Getting past the initial assumption will help both of you get the most out of the conversation.