“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?
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.