You know some things better than other people do. If you’re an accountant then you probably know more about finance than I do. And if you work in marketing then you probably know more about your customers than your company’s engineers do.
But at times this presents us with a problem, and that problem is called The Curse Of Knowledge.
Imagine the challenge of explaining how to format your computer’s hard drive to your elderly grandma who has never even touched a computer. As you start talking about disc utility tools and fragmentation, she looks at you blankly, completely unable to understand. And this is because you have started your explanation too far above her level.
The Curse Of Knowledge happens when we know so much about something, that we forget what it’s like to know nothing about it. As a result, we make lots of assumptions about what the other person understands and start talking about things that are too deep for them to grasp.
To overcome The Curse Of Knowledge, we simply need to start with agreement. Start our explanation by saying things the other person can agree with. Once we find what they can agree with, we’ve found what knowledge they have in common with us, and we’ll know how to adapt our explanation to their understanding.
To talk about formatting our hard drive with our grandma, let’s start by saying something she can agree with. “You know how when you eat too much you feel really full? And then that makes you really slow and sluggish. Well, the same thing can happen with our computer”.
So next time you need to explain something complicated to someone, start by finding what they can agree with.