Do you understand what's being said?
by on Thursday, April 23, 2015  (6 comments)

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"If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself." - Albert Einstein

We all know the person who knows it all. This person has no trouble talking your ear off with big words and scientific names. You're blown away by this person's knowledge. You can't keep up with all the terminology. Unfortunately, a lot of what this person has to say is lost on you because you simply can't follow along.

However, here's something to think about. Does the person really know what he or she is talking about? How are you to know? All you know is you don't know what he or she is talking about.

It's easy to memorize and use a few big words. For certain personality types, it can also be quite fun. It makes them feel smart, even if they aren't totally sure of what they are talking about.

In my experience, the bigger the words and more inaccessible the language the person uses, the less the person actually knows about what he or she is talking about. The better one's ability to explain things in plain, everyday language, the better grasp of the topic that individual has. The Einstein quote above articulates this phenomenon quite well. If a person can't explain what he or she is talking about in plain language that anyone can understand, how well does that person really understand what he or she is talking about?

More important, if you don't understand what that person is talking about and that person can't or won't use plain language, what are you getting out of the discussion? Frustration? Confusion? Certainly not useful, actionable knowledge.

Next time you encounter someone using big words, don't hesitate to ask them to explain in more plain language. If they are truly knowledgeable on the topic, they will appreciate your request and gladly do so. If they don't, they probably don't know the topic as well as they would claim and you're not going to get anything out of the conversation anyway so you'll know all you need to know to end the conversation with the confidence that you're not losing anything by doing so.

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6 comments
Charlene

Everyone loves to give running advice. Esp nonrunners. Often times though they do not realize that the stuff they say totally busts them as not knowing a thing about running.

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cesar

Interesting. Some people speaks in a complex language just to catch attention, while others are very intelligent people and as you said, would explain what they just said with day to day examples so that We can learn in an easy way.

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Charlene

Everyone loves to give running advice. Esp nonrunners. Often times though they do not realize that the stuff they say totally busts them as not knowing a thing about running.

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Ryan

Charlene, very true. Of course, it's easy to dismiss some when you know they are full of it such as you mention. My point is, if someone is talking likely on purpose over your head, why bother listening? You don't know what they are saying and it's likely they don't either.

Cesar, I agree fully. I actually began writing this post to much more directly point out just what you said but, maybe because I had a couple of people in mind, it felt like too much of an attack and I didn't feel comfortable with it.

As for these people I have in mind, I had a couple discussions elsewhere in the past few months where I'd address a topic without using big words. Someone would then disagree with me, saying I didn't know what I was talking about and dropping all kinds of big words. When I countered with more scientific explanations of what I was talking about, it was clear they just ended up sputtering and didn't know how to respond. They could use the big words when they didn't think others would catch on. Once confronted by someone who knew what those words meant and why their arguments were full of holes, they didn't know what to do.

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cesar

That being said. I live in a poor country, so a lot of people are ignorant because they did not have the chance to study, etc. To those people We get to talk in an understandable and clear way. In the other hand, when you are surrounded by proffesionals in your work field for example, you have to try to talk a little more professionally. But I think as you get more confortable with these people, you could throw a joke or two or basic words here and there ( language that We use in a daily basis with family or close people), sometimes too much proffesionalism tense things up and you dont feel that confortable. Sometimes is just necessary to speak that way since a lot of people ( especially succesful people) are perfeccionist.

I hope I know that I just said, lol!

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Ryan

Knowing your audience is important. In my "other life" I work in IT. I know to use technical language with my IT coworkers but not with coworkers from other parts of the business.

People shouldn't assume runners have taken college level physiology courses or have comparable knowledge. Most don't.

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