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Intellectual boundaries 

Knowledge is power and having too much of it might interfere and/or impact our interpreting. Our knowledge and principles can cause trife if we disagree with those we interpret for. Inspecting our intellectual boundaries will prove useful to stay impartial.


If in our personal life we are quick to argue with people about something that is close to our heart, then we are more susceptible to having thin skin when the same happens in a professional setting. Our disagreement or opinion will surely be stronger than someone who has control over their intellectual boundaries. Knowing which aspect triggers our anger, disappointment, dissatisfaction is the first step to recognise the signal that it is about to happen. 


Looking at how we settle our conversations in our personal life will help us decide if we need to change something to ensure the same will not happen at work. 


Looking at the way we respond to others on social media will show us what happens when they are poking at our beliefs and/or prejudices.


Only when we know how we rock, do we know how we dance.


A lover of Tarantino movies may demonstrate actions powered with drama, action and activism. Intense moments that may defy morals. 


A lover of Woody Allen movies may demonstrate actions peppered with comic and absurd features. Maybe repeating the same reactions in different situations and/or with separate people according to morals.


In a Netflix and Facebook culture where everything is flickering so fast, it is difficult to grasp ideas, to stop and digest that idea, deconstruct it and learn it so that we can predict future behaviour. Sometimes our knowledge is no more than a spoon full of other people’s posts and ideas on social media, not deep enough to give an opinion, but it seems we do not see that. We seem to think we know it all, or at least more than the others in the room. So when we intervene are we exercising our right to intervene because it is needed or because we want to?


Are we quick to mention when we believe a non-English would be better served with an interpreter in another language? Maybe they do not want to have an interpreter in their mother tongue because they believe they will be protected from shame in the community. Maybe they have lived in the third country long enough to feel more comfortable expressing themselves in their C language. 


How do we know so much about others we just met that allows us to see exactly what they need?


Are we quick to volunteer cultural information that is not called for just because we believe we know better what a person needs? 


How many migrants/refugees have had their voices stolen and their rights violated that perhaps they would prefer to have an interpreter that respects their message and does not take over?


The reality may be different for each one of us, but it pays to know ourselves and the reasons behind our so-called ‘logical’ interventions. It pays to invest time in delving inside us to learn more about our principles with an aim to create healthy boundaries, in the same way we plunge into research to learn about the settings in which we need to interpret. 


It also pays to keep our personal knowledge and experiences tamed (meaning we know our intellectual boundaries) so that they do not emerge in our interpreting where we can inadvertently help more than is required. Or when we do not agree with what the parties are saying. After all who will know?


Knowledge is indeed power but our knowledge should be paving the road to success, to becoming aware of the traps that can tarnish our reputation. 


Above all, our knowledge should not betray our impartiality. 


By Helena El Masri