Are You Cursed By Knowledge?

It’s a tough question. Mostly because you probably don’t even know you’re cursed.

That is, you don’t know what it’s like NOT to know what you know. This has HUGE implications in our communications. We end up communicating to clients, internal team members, and even our kids in a language they can’t comprehend and then wonder why our product doesn’t sell, that project doesn’t move forward and why our kids just won’t patiently wait when we ask them to.

Anytime we’re presenting – whether at a meeting, conference, kick-off or coffee shop – we want to be on the same page as our audience. We need to be sure we are inclusive, which can mean speaking to the lowest-common denominator. This is true even in a room where everyone understands cloud computing (or righty/lefty splits in baseball, or whatever the cursed subject matter may be).

This is generally the part of the blog post where people assume we’re going to suggest dumbing down the message. In truth, it is never about dumbing down the message.

Wait, really? Why not? Well for starters, “dumb it down” sounds like you’re explaining something in the same slow, pause-heavy pace you would use to explain to your four-year-old niece why her goldfish died. It’s usually best to assume intelligence on the part of your audience.

But more importantly, dumbing down your message doesn’t make it stick. As such, the better recommendation is to speak in concrete terms rather than abstract ones.

When you speak in concrete details everyone in your audience benefits, regardless of their degree of cursed-ness.

Say you’re speaking to a room full of tech-savvy folks. You could say “our network is secure.” Everyone in the audience – regardless of how cursed by tech they are – would have some understanding of what you mean. However, saying that also leaves up to the audience to interpret exactly what “secure” means. Let’s try something more concrete instead: “We dared the three biggest hackers in the Bay Area to break into our network. None of them could.”

Boom. Everyone in the audience – from the most cursed person to the least – can pass along that concrete message.

Where can you add concreteness? When has concreteness made a difference in your life? Tell us in the comments!

2 comments on “Are You Cursed By Knowledge?

  1. Another component of effective messaging is compelling storytelling! Use a concrete image or visual to ground the story then share emotionally
    relevant data or positive outcome…

    Our audiences may not always remember what was said, but they remember the way we made them feel. What’s the winning combination? Weaving intellectually sound, concrete examples into a story that is spoken straight from the heart!
    Kimberly Cohn, Board Certified Trainer, MFT/RDT

  2. Today, Part of my job role is to teach technical professionals facilitation and adult learning skills. As an engineer by training I struggled with how best to make the connection to the people I needed to reach.

    A technique I learned was to “practice” the conversation with friends and family looking for the common language which would enable us to communicate. This gives me a basis for the presentation or workshop coming up. I often use everyday examples that people can relate to through their own experiences. This tends to make the conversation more meaningful without “dumbing down” the topic.

    Thank you for this article. I am sharing it with my fellow facilitators.

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