Ever thought about the curse of knowledge? In case this term is unfamiliar, it means a cognitive bias that occurs when an individual communicating with other individuals, unknowingly assumes that the others have the background to understand. Sound familiar? I believe we’ve all had some experience with the curse of knowledge, as the sender or the receiver.
No matter how careful we think we’re being, we’re all at risk for the curse of knowledge whether we’re engaged in brand marketing, writing copy, interacting with prospects or existing clients, onboarding new staff or answering questions. Those are examples of being the sender but imagine when you’re the receiver and how isolating it may feel.
In order to avoid the curse of knowledge, here are some guidelines to consider:
As a sender…
- Know your audience or certainly make a goal of getting to know them.
- Avoid jargon or any terminology which is only known by people in your company or industry.
- Pay close attention to signals (both verbal and non-verbal) that your listener exhibits.
- Use examples whenever possible.
- Speak in shorter sentences.
- Check for understanding with open-ended questions (e.g. What’s your understanding so far?).
- Modify your message whenever needed.
As a receiver…
- Write your questions down in advance to help you feel organized.
- Ask as many questions as needed to get the information you’re seeking.
- Signal any confusion or lack of understanding you may experience (non-verbally as well as verbally).
- Clearly state what you need (i.e. Please speak louder, Could you restate what you just said, It would help me if you spoke more slowly so I can follow you, I’m not following you.).
- Remind the speaker to stay on topic if you notice they’re digressing.
The curse of knowledge is extremely common and only dilutes effective communication. The good news is that you can overcome this communication behavior by starting with these guidelines. Ready to begin?