There's lots of knowledge that does not come across as indoctrination or propaganda when someone gets told to "know this":
- Knowledge of facts like the state capital of California (Sacramento) or the name of the fifth hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean this year (Earl)
- Knowledge of techniques like how to change the default font in a web browser or how to play F# on a double bassoon
- Knowledge of consequences like what happens after you open a door marked "Fire Exit Only" or after you drive a car when the fuel gauge already reads "empty"
- Knowledge of patterns like recognizing the signs that it's nighttime in your time zone or winter in your hemisphere
However, there's lots of knowledge that usually provokes defensiveness, objections and closed minds because it comes across as indoctrination:
- Knowledge of moral imperatives to obey like the "right way" to act or "the only" ethical approach to a situation
- Knowledge of stances to adopt like the opinionated positions argued by political candidates or the selective claims made by attorneys during courtroom proceedings
- Knowledge of theories to embrace like why the current global recession is persisting or for why the college dropout rate is increasing
- Knowledge of recommendations to follow like an advised change in a strategy to get different results or a suggested change in a diagnosis to alleviate chronic symptoms
When we're delivering content, making presentations or otherwise being informative, we rarely consider ourselves to be indoctrinating our audiences. We simply want others to know what we know. We assume we can think alike and reach the same conclusions. We fail to realize how the receiving end is taking offense when no offense was intended.
Whenever I've learned that my well-intended pronouncements have come across as indoctrination, I consider morphing what I'm expecting others to know into questions. When I succeed at making that translation, the receiving end becomes more receptive. Defenses get lowered and minds open up. Questions seem to have the opposite effect from telling people what to know. The answers to the questions provides what they need to know.
Here are some of the key points I've just made translated into questions I ask myself:
- I question whether all the information I present is the acceptable which says that any defensiveness on the receiving end is completely unjustified?
- I wonder if I am being shown something I can change when it appears that I have provoked my audience to become closed minded?
- I question whether I'm failing to make a distinction between information that is easy to accept and information that is likely to be found objectionable?
- I wonder what alternatives there are to telling people what they need to know which might open their minds and lower their defenses?
- I question whether people can appreciate being guided to their own realizations instead of getting bombarded by a sage on stage?
- I wonder if my presentation strategy is actually too straightforward which suggests that I could take a more indirect approach?
As you ask these questions of yourself and formulate some answers, you will know something about morphing knowing into questions.