Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Make Your Knowledge, Skills And Understanding A Blessing Instead Of A Curse

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!

Dawson Chatagnier: First day toward a Ph.D.!

September 9th, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers, Training, Technology, Blogs, A/V etc. | 10 comments


  1. Excellent! Thank you, Tina!

    Comment by Gina | September 10, 2010

  2. This was a good way to further explain the curse of knowledge concept. I can use it to help me in my career coaching and also as I teach my son to play golf!

    Comment by Careerist | September 10, 2010

  3. Once again, you’ve provided me with material for a sermonette. I am going to include another curse of knowledge, which is that once we have attained it we not only lose some ability to communicate about it, we start to think we know it all.

    Blessings on you for the weekend and the coming weeks. You’re in our thoughts and prayers. D.R.

    Comment by Don R. | September 10, 2010

  4. Tina says: Thanks for the comments!

    Gina, thank you for providing the photos and the child!
    Careerist: Good luck! 🙂
    Don: That’s an excellent additional thought. I also am going to write one soon about the curse of ignorance, which is that when we don’t know something we don’t know how much we don’t know!

    Comment by TLR | September 10, 2010

  5. I think I need to go back to school to learn to write my name. I can’t write anything any more, I’m so used to typing. Cute little man…….and if that’s his first grade work I’d say he’s smart too.

    Just a week ago I was trying to explain something to someone in the shop and I couldn’t explain it because I knew how to do it so well. It’s like trying to tell someone how to tie their shoes. You’d be proud of me though. Even when he asked the most idiotic questions you could imagine, I behaved myself. Are we going to lose you for another winter or will you be up here again before May?

    Comment by wiseacre | September 10, 2010

  6. I sometimes feel the sting of arrogance when I try to get someone to explain something in a store or at the doctor’s office. They speed through their responses as though I know it all as well as they do. When I ask them to slow down I can tell it makes them angry. Older people endure that kind of treatment a lot, but I usually will stop them and make them talk slower and in real English not jargon!

    I liked this article and the school work is fun to see.

    Comment by Vet For Life | September 10, 2010

  7. Dawson writes his name very well and looks very intelligent to me. Maybe he’ll grow up and write as well as you do. 🙂

    In the dispatch training program we always have to make sure the trainers are helping people learn not just pointing out their mistakes. Trainees often make more mistakes than they do things right, so trainers have to build on the positives from day one. Like you say, you have to have a heart for teaching!

    Comment by P.A.H. | September 11, 2010

  8. Good article. The young man featured in the photos sure looks ready to be a straight A student. Good for him!

    Comment by Roger That | September 11, 2010

  9. Thanks for this. I found it at a time when I was trying to explain to the technicians that the people we assist are mostly experiencing our entire environment for the very first time (Police Impound!), and it can be overwhelming for them.

    I sent this to the technicians to encourage them to remember how it was before they “knew it all”!

    Comment by Jennifer T. | September 15, 2010

  10. Tina says: Thanks Jennifer for your comments! That’s exactly the kind of situation to which this can apply–and that was a very positive way to remind people about it.

    I often am in strange police buildings and courthouses and find myself a bit nervous every time, wondering if I’m going through security the right way, asking the right questions or headed down the correct hallway (especially when someone says, “The classroom is down there then turn then turn again, unless that first door is locked, which it might be.”)

    I hope you’ll comment often!

    Comment by TLR | September 18, 2010

Leave a comment