Sex and Misunderstandings, Part Three – “It’s Technical, You Wouldn’t Understand.”

One of the most hated phrases in the English language for me has got to be, “It’s technical, you wouldn’t understand.” Just typing it, makes me want to hurt someone. I’ve heard it more than a few times in my HVAC career and each time it’s like a punch in the gut.

Despite the title of this blog, in all fairness, I can’t say for sure that I’m hearing this phrase as a result of my gender, though I suspect for some who have uttered it, it is. As if they believe that estrogen prevents me from being able to process anything technical or mechanical in nature. For others, it could be because I sit behind a desk most of the time. Perhaps it’s not estrogen, but my desk creating a force field that prevents me from absorbing technical knowledge. Either way, it’s infuriating.

I have been very open in this blog about my lack of technical training. I am not a technician. In my opinion, to become truly “technical” takes YEARS of on the job training as well as other forms of training and I’ve only put in a small fraction of that time. However, I’ve spent many years listening, reading and learning. I am familiar with basic HVAC theory. And I am not an idiot.

Red stilettos with black boots
For me, one of the most hated phrases in the English language has got to be, “It’s technical, you wouldn’t understand.”

If I ask about a job and you tell me the details, I’m going to follow you just fine 99% of the time. The 1% of the time I simply don’t follow, I will make it my mission to research it and hunt down the answer until I can. I HATE not getting it. But I hate not being given the opportunity even more. Finding out I don’t know something doesn’t scare me. I can fix that. It’s way scarier not knowing that I don’t know. And by stonewalling me with your “you won’t understand” crap, you remove my ability to discover that I don’t know something. That pisses me off.

I’m not expecting the “you won’t understanders” to educate me. Just include me in the discussion. Give me an opportunity to learn and maybe even shock the hell out of you and CONTRIBUTE. I have discovered that my lack of expertise can sometimes be helpful in solving tricky technical problems. It may sound weird, but it’s true. Sometimes technical folks can get myopic and can’t see the forest for the trees. Sometimes a wider (or yes, more basic) view is needed. And often, even if I’m not directly part of solving the problem, just the act of talking the problem through sometimes leads to an answer.

Many of my colleagues are happy to include me. And to them, I owe a lot. I think that we make each other better by working together. So a big thank you to the includers. You guys rule!

To the “you wouldn’t understanders”, I’m going to make a suggestion. Never assume someone can’t understand something because of the way they look, or the job they have, their background, whatever. Because, here’s the thing, you’ll never know what someone is capable of until you both give it a try. And you might just be surprised at what YOU learn.