Vocabulary

How to accept your inner idiot

Recently, a dear friend confided in me that he feels stupid and way over his head whenever he talks to people who are in the field he wants to switch into. This is mostly because he doesn’t know all the jargon or references yet. Here are two tips I gave him:

1. Write down the words and references you don’t know.The first time I told someone I wanted to be a writer, she started listing all of her favorite authors and asking me what I thought of them. I didn’t know a single one of them, and I felt like a fraud who had just been caught. Since that day, I always carry around a notebook (now I use the Keep It app on my phone), and when someone mentions an author I don’t know, I simply write it down and tell them that I will check it out. Instead of getting wrapped up in self-doubt, I take a pro-active step towards building my knowledge, plus it gives the other person an ego boost. Making it clear that you’re eager to learn something new is the difference between curiosity and ignorance.

2. Give yourself some time. Vocabulary has nothing to do with intelligence, it has everything to do with exposure. My mom uses the word pulchritude all the time. One day I casually used it in conversation and a friend of mine looked at me like she suddenly realized she had underestimated my intelligence. I didn’t actively build up my vocabulary, I just kept hearing that word. The longer you are in a particular field, the more you’ll know the vocabulary that goes along with it. Don’t think for a minute that you’re not capable of doing the work if you don’t know every term that’s thrown at you – in a few weeks, you’ll be throwing that word around too.