Once in a while you see them, online or in real life. People making some claim or statement, often to show off or promote their ideology, who, when challenged, contemptuously reply “I don’t need to explain myself to you.” At times, they actually rant about how people wrongfully expect them to explain themselves – and on a more disturbing note, I’ve seen trainers claim this about questions asked during paid trainings and seminars, blaming their audience for being “too narrow-minded to understand”.
So let’s be clear here, to everyone out there, everybody who claims that “they don’t need to explain themselves”
YES. YES YOU DO.
Unless you are making an absolutely obvious claim like “people need oxygen to live”, if a statement you made is challenged, you do need to explain yourself.
You need to explain yourself fully and clearly. Or you need to politely apologize for not having the time or desire to do so and withdraw from the issue, doing so in a low-status way.
Well, you don’t actually need to do it – it’s not that you’ll get killed if you don’t. You will, however, come off as unprofessional, incompetent and arrogant in the eyes of everyone but your cronies. If you have little contact or awareness of people outside of your group of yes-men, then you might not even be aware of it – but that’s what the results will be.
If you make a claim or a statement publicly, you are basically putting your whole authority and prestige behind it. If someone challenges it and you claim “I don’t need to explain myself”, you are basically saying “How dare you question me!? You should mindlessly believe in what I claim! I will not lower myself to reply!” – and that’s neither professional nor civilized, nor especially healthy for you, as it’s a short track to having problems with narcissism. Nor will it get the status you claim in such a reaction. Can you imagine Einstein or Feynman reacting in such a way to a question? Me neither.
Now, admittedly, there will be weird or even downright insane people out there, especially online. But even in exchanges with such people you can simply provide an explanation which would be understandable to a normal person and leave it at that. And if you find that some issues appear regularly, you can just write down your answer once and link to it further on. Simple and useful.
Obviously, all of the above refers to claims made in informal exchanges or online discussions. When you’re a trainer, challenged during a training you’re doing, by someone who paid money to participate in the event, then your choices are even clearer. Because now you can’t just apologize for not wanting to discuss the issue. They paid you, they’re the customer, you’re obliged to take care of them.
Which also means that you can’t blame them for being too narrow minded or stuck in their own perspective to understand your point. Let’s be completely frank here: if you can’t explain your point, as a trainer, then you are failing at your job. You are not paid to preach to sycophants. You are paid to teach adult people. People with different perspectives and attitudes.
If you can’t do it in some area, with some people, it’s not the end of the world, nobody is perfect.
You are allowed to admit to a training participant “I’m sorry, but I just don’t know how else to explain it to help you understand, let me think about it and get back to you on the topic.”
You are allowed to say “I understand that you have a different perspective on this and I’m not going to force the issue on you, however, this is what I base my work on and what I’d like to work with for the rest of the day. Can you try to get what you can from the training, even if you don’t share this perspective?”
Finally, you are even allowed to say “I’m not sure if further discussion of this issue won’t be a problem for the rest of the group, can we talk about it during the break?”
You can do all these.
I’ve done them a lot of times. I have NEVER had any problems with them, either with open groups or business and administration groups. I have had some of the most conflict-prone people imaginable in my groups, used such attitude and never had any problems with them. Because people will understand that you’re not god and you can be unable to explain an issue in any other way than what you’ve tried.
What they will not understand – nor should they – is you, as a trainer, blaming THEM for YOUR incompetence. After they paid you good money. That’s downright cheating your clients, so don’t do it, mate.
And if you can’t help yourself, can’t allow yourself to lower your status in contact with your customers – well, that’s a bit of work you need to get done on yourself, either through therapy, coaching or some other means. It’s no shame – changing yourself tends to be the hardest because you have no real leverage, you’re too engaged in the issue to see it clearly. Just don’t let that stop you from becoming better for your clients.
To sum up – you are not God, nor the Spaghetti Monster’s high priest. People shouldn’t believe something is true just because you claim it to be. If you claim something to be true, people are fully justified to challenge it, and if you had the guts to claim something, you should also have the guts to take responsibility and support your claim. If you don’t, apologize and withdraw.
To claim something and then claim you don’t need to explain your claim is arrogant, unprofessional, egotistical and just down right cowardly. It’s wishing to have your cake (“Make a claim and possibly impact some people.”) and eat it too (“Not be responsible for the claim you make.”) It’s a direct road to narcissism, and that is one unhealthy way to go. So please, don’t.
And if you disagree and want me to explain myself further, I’ll be happy to do so:)