Has someone ever spoken to you, rabbiting on confidently as if what they are saying is as clear as the morning sky, while you are struggling to make any kind of sense out of what they are saying?
It’s kind of surreal, as if they forgot what country they were in and hadn’t twigged that the audience speaks a different language. They’re speaking away happily in French to a Japanese crowd who are too polite to point out the problem.
George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place."
I’m willing to bet you’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of this kind of miscommunication not just occasionally but countless times. I know I have. Sales presentations, roadshows, conferences, and meetings I’ve attended where I’m left wondering what context I’ve missed. Websites and mission statements that tell me nothing about what a company actually does. My own presentations where I can see I’m not getting my message across.
Taking the trouble to remove jargon and acronyms certainly helps, but there is a more insidious problem that prevents us from making sense to other people.
It’s a cognitive bias that everyone in the world suffers from, and it’s known as the curse of knowledge.
Once you know a thing, you can’t un-know it, and this prevents you from viewing information from the perspective of someone who doesn’t have the same knowledge. You’re cursed with it, unable to make sense to the less informed.
This is why a newbie or outsider can often give a better explanation of a topic than an expert. They can still remember what people don't know.
So is there hope for the expert? How do you break the curse of knowledge so that people understand what the farthingham you’re talking about?
Yes, there is hope. (Cue inspirational music.)
People understand stories. A story describes an experience a person has had, and the listener experiences the same thing for themselves as they hear the story.
For example, you might tell the story of one of your customers who was facing a challenge that you were able to help them with. Instead of telling people about your products and services, you allow them to experience what it’s like to work with you, through the eyes of someone else who has. And then they’ll understand what you’re about, especially If they can identify with the other customer and the problem they faced.
What stories can you uncover that will help you to make more sense?