Things that Need to Be Said

Haircut or Curse of Knowledge

“Oh, did you get your hair cut?”

I say this all the time. In my mind, it’s clear as day that I’ve just given a compliment. But to the person listening, it leaves a lot of doubt and lingering questions.

Does he like it? Does it look good? Did I go too short? Is the color too drastic?

I’m guilty of forgetting to follow through with the actual compliment. “Did you get your hair cut? It looks great today!” is a completely different exchange.

This happens to all of us all the time – in our personal lives and at work, when the stakes are low and when they are high. It’s an example of the Curse of Knowledge. We think we say one thing, but we actually don’t say it at all.

We stop short of connecting the dots. We make references that our audience doesn’t understand. We give a high-level overview of something, and it’s not familiar or specific enough to sink in.

What’s the best way to stop the curse of knowledge?

Seek feedback.

One of the best values we continue to provide as outside consultants is the raw, audience perspective. We can raise the flag that says, “I don’t know what that means,” or, “You need to give more detail around this initiative,” since we don’t know all of our clients’ positioning, internal talk, acronyms or jargon. Chances are, unless you are preparing for a weekly project meeting with the same four people, your audience won’t know it either.

Any chance you get to run your messaging and positioning by a set of unbiased, virgin ears, do it. The feedback will improve your pitch, your town hall or your upcoming roadshow.

And the next time you notice a great hair day, remember to lead with the compliment rather than the question.



Cut the Jargon

Back when I was working in the Sales Consulting world, I started saying, “There exists a contradiction in,” instead of, “There is” – because I heard someone else say it. A classic foible of those fresh out of business school. Perhaps that’s why we got a laugh out of this … Continue reading

When You Assume…

At some point we’ve probably all had that smart aleck in our life who asks if we know how to spell “assume.” For me it was an old boss in the telecom world. Any time I used the word “assume” in a sentence – even if nothing had gone wrong … Continue reading

What If Everybody is Cursed By Knowledge?

Anytime you’re presenting something – say, the ins and outs of cloud computing – and are so entrenched in that world you forget it’s possible for someone to not know all about it, you’re suffering from the Curse of Knowledge. We’ve written about this before. But what if everyone in … Continue reading

Video Blog: What is customer loyalty?

What does the commonly used buzzword customer loyalty mean to you? Think about a company or organization to which you are a frequent and loyal customer. What makes you return? What makes you talk about it to other people? Please answer in the comments! In this week’s video blog, I bring … Continue reading

Value-added, out-of-the-box… nothing!

Could someone have played buzzword bingo during your last pitch, team meeting, or presentation? Employees in the video below definitely could, enduring a rah-rah talk about “goal-oriented, disruptive, Web 3.0″ nothingness. Jargon gushes out of us like water from a busted fire hydrant – when will we shut off the … Continue reading

Are you Cursed by Knowledge?

It’s a tough question. Mostly because you probably don’t even know you’re cursed. Psychologists and behavioral economists who study this phenomenon find the more of an expert you become in your field, the more likely you are to be cursed by your own knowledge. That is, you don’t know what … Continue reading

What Joni Mitchell might say about cloud computing

A cute white puffy cloud – like the kind you used to draw next to the smiling sun in Kindergarten. But rather than find it on your child’s artwork, these days you’re more likely to see it right smack dab in the middle of an insanely complex technical diagram (the … Continue reading

Attention airlines: It’s high time to focus on communicating!

I’ve been traveling quite a bit lately (actually sitting on an American flight to Chicago as I write), and I’m finding the airlines have some serious work to do in their communications. Let’s start with the behavioral side (the part that we hear and see as someone is speaking to … Continue reading

The Visual Dominates – Mehrabian Revisited

There’s been a lot of unfortunate controversy among communication professionals about Professor Albert Mehrabian’s oft quoted research (below). It’s good to have discussion though, for his research has altered the communicating landscape and has helped to get people out of the ‘curse of knowledge.‘ Here are my thoughts and personal … Continue reading