In the book, Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive And Others Die, authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath talk about the curse of knowledge. They explain it as being the condition in which we know something so well we can’t remember what it was like to lack the knowledge. As a result, the better we know something the less able we are to communicate about it effectively.
That tendency creates problems enough for us, but we make it much worse when we add two of our human traits: Arrogance and Impatience. Those two traits added to our knowledge, skills and understanding can easily build barriers between us and those we want to influence, persuade or teach or with whom we simply want to communicate effectively.
*Have you been in a situation at work, home or somewhere else, where you felt someone was not concerned with whether you learned or even if you understood their viewpoint, but mostly wanted to demonstrate how knowledgeable or skillful he or she was?
*Have you ever felt someone was using his or her knowledge as a weapon against you, to make you feel lacking compared to them?
*Have you been in a situation where you felt you were bothering or irritating someone when you didn’t understand something right away, had to ask a question or weren’t sure of what to do next?
When we display arrogance or impatience, people with whom we’re communicating turn us off consciously or subconsciously. At the very least they develop a negative attitude about us–and often about the things we want to teach or share. There’s an adage, attributed to at least a dozen people, which is true no matter who said it: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Share your blessings with others.
Occasionally stop and think about how different your life would be if you lacked the knowledge and skills you now possess–whether or not you use them every day. Consider basic as well as high level abilities: reading labels or instructions, writing or typing your name, having an advanced vocabulary, being able to drive, understanding a book, newspaper or magazine and being able to explain it to someone, being able to cook or use tools and knowing how to perform any of thousands of routine and special tasks. Be extremely grateful for all of that and for the impact on your life and work.
The next time someone–a friend, coworker, employee, client or customer, family member, trainee or class member–asks you a question, remember what it was like when you had questions, too. The next time you need or want to share your understanding, knowledge, skills or abilities, make it a positive experience for others. Think of it as a privilege to be able to transfer something from your mind and heart to theirs. If they don’t immediately understand the information or agree with your opinion, rather than letting arrogance or impatience put a hex on what you’re trying to do, stop for second and remember what it was like to not know. Start where they are and with good cheer and a caring attitude move to the next step, then the next, pausing to make sure those you are leading are following.
Count your blessings–and remember when you hadn’t received them yet!