Why does EVERYONE else know more stuff than me?!

Do you ever feel a bit Joey? It’s only the first 1 min 10 secs of this clip that are relevant here…

For those of you who didn’t watch the clip – it’s from Friends, and it’s the one where the encyclopedia salesman asks Joey if his friends ever have conversations where he nods along but doesn’t really know what they’re talking about. Then we see Joey flashing back to several situations where his friends are talking and he has no clue what it’s about. He wants to join in, but he can’t.

When I watched that episode, I laughed, but I also had to acknowledge that I quite often feel a bit Joey. And I’m hoping you’re all going to reassure me that you do too.

It could be in a work meeting, or a class. It could be in a social setting – maybe somebody brings up a current political issue and it feels like EVERYONE around you is fully informed about it; they’re discussing, they’re debating, you’re vaguely aware of what it’s about, but certainly don’t know enough to add anything intelligent to the discussion. You sit there nodding and smiling/frowning in what seems like appropriate places, thinking “Please nobody ask me what I think about this!” Or the discussion could be about music, and EVERYONE is talking about bands that you’ve never heard of. Or books that you’ve never read. Or films that you’ve never seen. Or places that you couldn’t begin to find on a map. EVERYONE else knows all about these things apart from you.

This happens to me on blogs sometimes too. I’ll read a blog post, and be quite impressed at how knowledgeable the writer is about something, and then I’ll read the comments, and discover that ALL the commenters are equally knowledgeable; they’re all making good points and adding interesting things into the discussion, and I have NOTHING.

Whatever the situation, and whatever the discussion, we’ve all experienced times where we feel like everyone around us is more intelligent or knowledgeable or informed than us. I think I’m fairly safe here in assuming that everyone does feel like that SOMETIMES. But the real crux of the matter here is – do we feel like this situation happens to us more often than it happens to other people? I’m going to be brave here, and say that yes, for me, I feel like overall this happens to me more often than it happens to other people. But I don’t actually know whether it does or not.

I’m working to rationalise it a bit here – I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent (stop laughing at the back there!), and I know that there are probably many times where I am one of the ones who is knowledgeable about a topic and is fully engaged with the discussion, and I just don’t notice the quieter ones who might be sitting there clueless. Or maybe in group discussions, there are others who are much better at pretending they know what’s going on than I am, so I assume that more people understand than really do. And maybe when I read a blog post where all the commenters seem more clued in than me, I need to remember that for every one who comments, there might be five like me who don’t really understand the issue enough to comment; but of course  I don’t see those ones.

Even though I can rationalise it in those ways, I still keep coming back to the slightly niggly feeling that it happens to me more often than it happens to others.

What about you? How often do you feel a bit Joey?

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76 responses to “Why does EVERYONE else know more stuff than me?!

  1. Oh yes, it happens to me all the time. I’m very much a person of extremes – I’m either a total expert on a topic or I’m utterly ignorant, there’s not much in between with me.

    But it’s a modern world we live in, of course. Wikipedia and Google make geniuses of us all.

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    • Yes, I think we’re all experts on certain topics, even if we don’t realise it, but I do tend to notice the times when I’m not the expert more! Yes, of course it’s quite easy to inform ourselves quickly, but it’s not always convenient to do that mid-conversation, hehe.

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  2. I take the high road and simply add that I don’t know enough about the topic to add anything. Of course I may also be wondering if the participants really do know anything. After all, there is the situation of the discussion between people who think they know something, but actually don’t … then what do you do?

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    • Generally I would say that the older we get, the more willing we are to admit when we don’t know something; we certainly care less what other people think about us, but it’s just the fact of feeling that ignorance that can be unsettling, even if we’re happy to admit it! And yes, there are those times where you listen to people spouting off “knowledgeably” about something, when clearly they have it so wrong! It depends on the situation there whether we intervene doesn’t it, we might have to be sensitive and not risk embarrassing the person.

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  3. Acronyms always make me feel a bit Joey. I keep thinking ‘What does that mean?’ And ‘Why can’t you just say the words?’ I have started to make up acronyms just to see if people nod wisely or look blank.

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    • Oh yes acronyms! When people aren’t sensitive to the fact that people around them might not be familiar with them. I’m even finding unexplained acronyms in some of the good peer-reviewed journal articles I’m looking at on my Masters. Making them up is good – I used to have an old boss who loved proverbs and sayings, but always got them wrong, so we used to make some up around him to see if he repeated them later and he often did!

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  4. More times than I want to admit…. there are occasions on Blogs I follow that the person will post words I’ve never seen before, let alone know how to pronounce, or what they mean… so they normally get a like from me and no comment… as my forte is not the English language and seeing I follow a lot of those that write perfect English, I get lost quite often… it took all my gumption to post the opening chapter of my book, thinking my writing is too kinder garden like… but I got a lot of encouragement and decided I’d go on and just have to find someone to help edit the book.. (hope they don’t have to re write it)… google and microsoft word can only do so much, and with my writing it’s not enough.. lol

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    • But then when it comes to the animals of your country, we are all impressed by your knowledge, not to mention golfing software! We just all have our different areas where we shine, and those where we are, well, less shiny! (I won’t say dim!).

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  5. It’s even worse when it’s a class full of teenagers ans they are snickering because I don’t know a band, a TV show, a movie, a meaning to yet another word that’s been bent. Those snickers incite grey hair sprouting.

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  6. Everyone feels a little Joey at times, my lovely friend.
    But there’s only one Vanessa-Jane Chapman and she rocks!

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  7. Heh heh heh. So, now you get to drag the truth outta me. Okay, I’m going to be upfront and spill my guts. I have a.l.w.a.y.s. felt a little Joey. ALWAYS. But, I figured it was because I had grown up all the way yet. 😉

    It is freeing and such a relief to realize the rest of the world might just know to LOOK like it knows what’s going on ALL the time. Some years ago, maybe before I retired, I was in a conversation where this revelation came to light. Bravo for a reassuring post, Vanessa.

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  8. Or, you disagree with what everyone else is saying about a subject but are afraid to be the dissenting voice

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  9. Before I learned how to cook (which wasn’t until I had children), I was a Joey whenever the women (or men) around me shared recipes and cooking tips. I’d just smile and nod but have nothing to add. At least that is behind me, but an area that I will never comprehend is economics. I’ll take DNA and protein synthesis any day over stocks, bonds, portfolios, whatever. I think my husband has given up on me. I can do math, balance checkbooks, and all that basic stuff, but start talking about dividends, and I’ll be the biggest Joey around. Oh, that and footwear designers. No clue there, either.

    I assure you, Vanessa, you are not alone. We all have our areas of insufficient knowledge. The beauty of getting older is, you no longer care… 😉

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    • Yes, sometimes when it’s something basic, like cooking, you can feel particularly embarrassed about knowing nothing because you kind of feel like you ought to know something! If it’s something more complex, like economics, then maybe it’s ok to be a bit a Joey, especially if you can later turn the conversation to DNA and protein synthesis (what’s that now?!). As you say though, when you get older, you care less!

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  10. I ALWAYS feel like this, especially when anyone talks politics or Hollywood scene, music (big time), and movies. I guess I don’t care enough about those things to try to get knowledgeable about them. But it’s never really bothered me to be quiet and not add my 2 cents worth of blabber to the conversation. I like other people being the talkative ones so I can watch them. I’m the people watcher. That’s where I get my kick. And yes, there are blogs I’ll read and think that it was great, but for the life of me, I can’t think of anything constructive or witty to add in the comments. That’s when I just hit the like button. LIKE is for when you’re too busy to comment but want to give the online “high-five” to show you read and appreciated it…or it’s the lame “I liked this but am too clueless to add anything more to the comment string” (that’s usually more likely what my likes mean)

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    • I remember a couple of occasions where you have just clicked ‘like’ on one of my posts and not commented – now I know why, I’m just too smart for you! 😉 Yes, I don’t mind being quiet and just listening if it’s something I don’t know about, but the feeling that you’re the only one can be uncomfortable at times; I guess those are the times to just remind ourselves of all the things we ARE knowledgeable about!

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  11. Clearly MY blog posts aren’t making you feel like a Joey.

    As a person who has been surrounded by educators his whole life, I do feel and acutely understand your discomfort. But I’d rather be the most ignorant person in a room rather than the situation be the other way ’round.

    Maybe that makes me a bit selfish; I’d rather gain knowledge rather than impart it.

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    • No, I can generally cope with the subject matter in your posts 😉

      That’s a very good and positive way of looking at these situations – they are not opportunities to make us feel ignorant, they are opportunities to learn something new, I’m going to remember that!

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  12. Yes, definitely, it happens to me and I always get annoyed, because I pride myself on being fairly well educated. It especially annoys me when other people know more about literature than I do, since that was my field. But then nobody can know everything about everything. In my opinion the thing to do is to say, “I don’t know much about that – would you explain?” Awhile back, I was investigating Judaism and I ran into the following quotation ostensibly from Maimonides: “Teach your tongue to say ‘I do not know’ and you shall progress.”

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    • Oh yes, if it’s your area of expertise then it’s perhaps even worse! I certainly don’t mind asking someone to explain something more if the situation is appropriate, but there are times where it’s not, or where you feel like you might be annoying if you keep asking questions! Asking is good, but also, as you say, accepting that we can’t know everything is also good!

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  13. Oh that’s totally me. >.<
    I find, very often, that I've fallen into a conversation I just don't get and can't get out of it without sounding silly. I'm yet to reach the point that I fake passing out to get out of a conversation like that, but I've come close.
    *sigh*

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  14. Well, I’m of several different opinions.
    I once had to ask someone who Mother Theresa was. Yes, really.
    There is so much to in fact know. But I wouldn’t really want to be a know it all. Ya’ know? Now I actually make a point of paying no attention to the news whatsoever. Less stressful that way. Plus advertisers are paying for what they think you should find important. What applies to me usually gets to me somehow.
    I am thinking that I have no business knowing what you think of me. So sounding or seeming silly doesn’t matter. If I’m free to not worry about that then I can learn. When you don’t make it about you, it can be yours for the taking and learning.
    Love ya’ Vanessa,
    Shalagh (and everyone else)

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    • Hi Shalagh! I tend to keep quite up to date on the news, but usually just the headlines, I don’t go too in depth – so I think that’s why I might often have a vague general idea what people are talking about if it’s to do with current affairs, but I don’t know enough to contribute intelligently. I’m not worried if people think I’m silly (or usually I’m not, there are certain situations where I do mind!), but I hate the feeling of like “HOW does everyone else here know all about this stuff and I dont!”
      Thanks for stopping by – hugs!

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  15. Don’t fret too much – we all have those moments – just be honest and talk about what you know – the world has more than enough bullshitters!

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  16. I definitely feel a little bit Joey, while I was reading your post it felt like you were describing me. Are you sure you weren’t a fly on our wall last night ? LOL.

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  17. Joey rocked, even if he didn’t understand how. Ad that is me, all the time, especially on some blogs. Fun stuff, althugyou could try the ‘fake it til yo make it’ scenario…

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  18. I feel like Joey far more often than not! And I love Char’s comment because it really sums up what I think, too. I can interact and be chatty at get togethers—for a while in the middle of the event. But it’s hard to get started, and I’m either tired before long or lost about the conversation topics. So I also spend much of the time watching and listening. I’ll try to remind myself that everyone isn’t necessary more “in the know” than I am, but I’m not usually successful at convincing myself of that fact!

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    • Oh I’m pleased you feel the Joey more often than not like me! Only because I think of you as very wise and knowledgeable, so it gives me hope! Watching and listening is good, and can be entertaining in itself – often it’s just that I wish I knew more about what people were talking about, even if I don’t want to join in!

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  19. I feel like Joey more times than I’d like to admit. that’s why I listen more than I talk. Too afraid of opening mouth and inserting foot.

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  20. Oh yes, all the time. Music is my downfall. I like what I like and I don’t pretend to be a walking music encyclopaedia but I’m hopeless when it comes to anything before the 80’s and I thought indy bands were from a town called Indy. Seriously.
    I know a man very into music and he can call up a band in a second and reference it with other bands and tell you were he was when he first heard them. I say things like “Love them, yes, fantastic stuff…” and hope any moment the conversation will change to something scientific. I feel like a real digbat.

    I’m not always up on politics either. I found out America has closed and I laughed. I thought they were joking. How embarrassing.

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    • Music is mine too, I’ve just never been good at it, even as a teenager when you’re supposed to know all about the current stuff! I love listening to music in the car, and singing along and all that, but I never seem to retain the names of the bands or the songs, or like you said with indy, I’m often not even sure which genre they fit into. So I just always hate the question “What sort of music do you like?” because I never know what to say, so I usually come out with something lame like “Oh you know, all sorts really!”. As for thinking it was a joke when you heard America had closed; I don’t think you’re alone there!

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  21. All the time. I blame it on being wrapped up in my kids and my imaginary friends (i.e., writing). There really isn’t any one topic that I am super-knowledgeable about. Sometimes I feel comfortable enough to admit that I need to be clued in, and most people are quite gracious and understanding and will help me out. There are a few, though, whose snickers I hear in my nightmares.

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    • You are super-knowledgeable about kids and writing! And probably lots of other things too, but often we don’t realise it – we kind of assume that if we know things then other people know them too! Often people quite like it if you say you don’t know something because it can make them feel superior, and they like to be the one to explain it to you (that’s what I like to think anyway!).

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  22. “How you doin’?”
    “I’m feelin’ Joey today.”
    I often feel out of my league in conversations. But, we all have different areas of interest/expertise. If it matters to us whether we’re informed, we just have to speak up and say, “Why?”

    Some people live or work in a community where they can’t do that, and that’s sad. Because no one can be expected to know everything. Sure, I’ve gotten some quick eyerolls or amused chuckles about my ignorance, but good friends will let that go after one ribbing and bring me up to speed. Especially if it’s a topic they’re passionate about, and one I want to be able to converse with them about at an intelligent level. People in general love expounding on their areas of expertise. In fact, some of them I have trouble shutting up! 😀

    There’s nothing wrong with being clueless about some matters. In many situations, it breeds cooperative dialogue. Some people can be autocratic jerks about certain topics, but we learn to steer clear of engaging those nuts, after a while.

    You’re not alone, Vanessa. But, I hope the know-it-alls don’t keep you down!

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    • “I’m feeling Joey today” suddenly sounds like a planned activity! 😉

      If it’s a highly specialised subject then I think it’s more understandable when explanations are needed, and I don’t mind asking. I think it’s more the situations where it seems like an everyday thing that I SHOULD know about where I might feel awkward about speaking up, depending on who I’m with. I guess we make a point to be informed about the things that matter to us, so if we’re not informed, then it shouldn’t matter to us!

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  23. I definitely pull a Joey at work– I work in a healthcare setting but don’t really have any understanding of public health politics/medicare/blah blah so I always just model my “how terrible” or “what a triumph!” faces after the expression of who is speaking to me. It works more than one might imagine.

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    • Ha yes! I work in a university which has all its own unique terminology and so on. I’ve been there over 10 years, so I’m ok with it all now, but at first I didn’t have a clue what anyone was talking about! Now I can smile smugly about the new people who start and sit there in meetings clearly not understanding anything!

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  24. I think it’s a sign of the times and the fact that there is sooooo much information created on a daily basis, and discussing about everything!! You feel like you have to know everything, which is, of course, impossible. Then as you get older, there’s the younger generation. And who knows what they’re thinking, Vanessa. I can’t keep up either. My husband can retain a lot of information about a lot things and talk about most topics in an intelligent way. He’s like a real Google. But every and now and then, he’ll say, “Look it up!” Definitely nodding my head at times.

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    • Some people seem to be able to retain every bit of information that comes their way, whereas I feel like I have to hear things a few times for them to really get cemented in! I think my head is too busy thinking about all the things I have to do and so it discounts anything that it doesn’t need! And there just isn’t time to look up everything we don’t get!

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  25. All the time. At first, I thought it was because I wasn’t able to hear everything everyone was saying. Now, I realize that I’m out of the loop on many topics. So I often choose to walk through the garden with a drink (if there’s a garden), sit and close my eyes and pretend I’m in my own little corner in my own little chair being whoever I want to be, or find someone else who has a glazed look on their face and start a conversation I want to have. They’re often just as relieved to change the subject. Sometimes I just go back into hibernation. So I guess what I’m saying is that you’re not alone. Congrats on going back for your masters! Hope it’s going well.

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    • Thanks Jilanne, yes, I’m enjoying the masters work so far! Ah yes, sitting in the garden with a drink and closed eyes sounds blissful! Maybe that’s the answer, if we find ourselves out of the loop in a conversation, just look for the others with glazed looks on their faces – at least it might provide some comfort to remember we’re not alone! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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  26. I left school at 16 so I feel like I missed out on a lot of ‘education’ and there have been plenty of times I’ve felt a bit Joey. I’m not bad at blagging though so get away with it more than I should do 🙂

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  27. Insightful post. (Anyone who claims never to have been Joey…run from them fast!)
    Great comments here. Not much to add, but it seems to be if you speak with authority and confidence people will believe ANYTHING.
    So with that, an old phrase “Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

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  28. Thank you for admitting your Joeyness, Vanessa. I’m standing up with you to declare that I, too, am a Joey. Since I don’t have cable, I don’t know which shows are popular. Since I don’t listen to the radio, I have no clue about who’s “in” in terms of singers. As for the news, I’m Highly Sensitive! I can’t watch all that bad news and bickering–it stresses me out–so I am woefully uninformed about local, national and global events. I read a lot, but I forget authors and plots because I read so so much other stuff! Memorization was never my strong suit.

    But ask me about quilting, blogging, writing, chronic fatigue, vegan diets, Buddhism, and dogs, and I can tell you a lot. Maybe some other stuff, too.

    The point is, each of us know what interests us very well. Our brains can only handle so much. Even the people who seem to know a lot about everything, don’t. They just know a lot about appearing to know a lot. Scratch the surface and they actually only know a little.

    I think the truly humble of us will admit to being like Joey. The people out there who take themselves way too seriously are like Joey too, but will never admit it. Unless they are geniuses. You have to make exceptions for geniuses, right? 😉

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    • Yes, we all have our things that we know about. It’s not just about exposure though, I think we make unconscious choices about what information we retain. A classic example of that for me is the radio, I listen to the radio a lot, and so I hear lots of news and lots of music – without meaning to, I retain the news but not the music, when the DJ says the name of the song that has just played, or the band, it doesn’t stay with me at all, I don’t even hear it, but the news all goes in. It’s good that we all have different interests though isn’t it! And yes, I guess we can make exceptions for geniuses 🙂

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  29. Obviously, your charm trumps any real knowledge in these situations. Your posts are super fun. Stalking all of them now.

    Like

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