You can’t un-know something.

I am a fan, as you may be too, of TED talks – if you don’t know about them – google it.  Time watching a well-chosen TED talk is generally time very well spent  – their theme is ideas worth spreading and I’m confident everyone can find something of interest on TED.

Recently I watched an unusual talk on hand washing – yep hand washing.  The speaker explained how many bazillion trees we are killing using paper towels in public restrooms to dry our hands. He indicated how most people take 2,3,4 or more towels each time we dry our hands (well it is fun to pull them out of the dispenser). He proposed a new idea that would only require us to use 1 paper towel – the technique requires you to shake the excess water off your hand – using 12 shakes – not 11, not 10 – 12, then to grab a paper towel, fold it in half – that part is key – you must fold it in half and then dry your hands. He swears you will only ever need one paper towel henceforth. Video below, if you want a more detailed description.

So, since I’ve watched that video, I can’t not shake my hands 12 times. I can’t not use only 1 folded paper towel.  I can’t not feel compelled to educate others when I see them taking half a dozen paper towels to dry their hands. It’s all I can do not to tap them on the shoulder and tell them about this video.

This leads me to my thought for the day… you just can’t un-know something. Now that I know this about the paper towels – I can’t un-know it.  In this case it’s pretty good, once you find out about a situation be it political, social justice or even just paper towels— you can’t un-know it but you can take action –  you can work towards positive change, you can strive to make things better, you can make a small difference in your corner of the world, you can use just one folded paper towel.

In some cases though, knowing the information is bad.   Like when my friend told me something private about another friend – something I had no business knowing, something personal and confidential and I was so mad at him for telling me. I can’t un-know the information. The other friend doesn’t know I know and I know I shouldn’t know this about her and I feel awkward. Did that make sense?

It really made me think about the information we share – sometimes too freely.  Is it our information to share?  Is it our story to tell? Would the other person want us to be sharing it? Might it change the dynamics of the relationship to tell it?  Realize the other person can’t un-know the information you are about to divulge – so should you be divulging it?

One of my favourite expressions is that you can’t put toothpaste back in the tube – same goes for the information you share, words you say and actions you do.

What is something you can’t un-know? Did it help you do something better, see things from a new perspective or cause a shift in some way. 

Stephanie  Staples

Stephanie Staples

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