Communication tips: Avoiding the Curse of Knowledge

Better communication


According to that highly trustworthy source Wikipedia, the Curse of Knowledge is:

“a cognitive bias that occurs when an individual, communicating with other individuals, unknowingly assumes that the others have the background to understand.”

Think about it.

You are the expert on what your business does. You know your products and services inside out.

But here’s the problem. When it comes to explaining to someone else (such as a potential customer) what you do, you assume a certain amount of knowledge. The ‘curse’ is that once you know something, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like for others that don’t.

You sometimes get too technical, using industry jargon. Your communication is too detailed and you lose them along the way. Though every little thing about your business is interesting to you, for others… not so much.

Even if your customer is ‘in’ the industry, they probably don’t have time to read long-winded explanations of your latest project. They want to know what’s in it for them. How can you make their lives better?

So, when it comes to customer or prospect communication, you’ve got to be clear and simple.

And put yourself in their shoes. What interests them? What gets them excited? How can you save them money, save them time or get the job done more efficiently? How can you make them look good?

It helps to listen closely to customers – do a survey or host a focus group. Find out what matters to them. 

In book The Art of Explanation, Lee LeFever explains that making complex ideas easy-to-understand is the key to winning over a customer. His ideas don’t just apply to a business environment. A couple of his ideas include:

  • Creating a story around you, your company and your products and services. Storytelling is an age-old way of communicating ideas. More businesses are using this approach to show how they differ from their competitors.
  • Tell your story in different ways. Many people use the About Us section of their website to write about their company history and explain what they do. Consider whether your story could be better told with a video? Or talk about how you’ve helped clients overcome their problems through interviews.

It sometimes helps to have someone outside your company write your messages. Like a freelance copywriter.

If you need help knocking out the jargon and communicating clearly, let me know.