Posted by: LYF | February 21, 2010

Explaining with the other person in mind

“No!  It doesn’t hurt because I over did it.  My iliopsoas is so tight from sitting 8+ hours a day, that my posture is shot.   And the resulting anterior pelvic tilt, is somehow putting pressure on my sciatic nerve.”  “Well you just told me you were deadlifting for over half an hour straight.  Why would you want to do that in the first place?  You know deadlifts are bad for your back, right?”  *brain explodes from frustration*

I get 5-10 emails a day from my uncle and second cousin about a family questionnaire we’re making.   It’s a great idea.  But the minutia its taken to go from idea to action, has replaced my original feeling of “this is awesome!” with “WTF am I getting 5-10 emails a day about the best way to contact everyone!?”

Should we send a long email to each family member?  Should it be short?  Can we just send it?  Or should we create two draft versions to choose from?  One long and one short.  Maybe we like wading around in the details because it feels like we’re doing something.

There’s an assumption most people take for granted, when they’re talking with someone else.  Its just below the expectation of being understood.  That if you’re talking to someone, it doesn’t matter who it is, they will expect to “get” what you’re saying.  If they don’t it’s your fault.

They should know what you’re talking about, but they don’t and since they should, it’s your fault for confusing them.  Either that will happen or they’ll write your explanation off as either stupid or wrong and sub in their own.

Most juniors get stuck in this situation.  It’s also the thing I have the hardest time with.  I want to feel understood.  Too bad my feeling has no relation with how effective I’m communicating.  Usually, if I’m too busy focusing on getting my point across, I end up being misunderstood anyway.

I mess this up daily.  When I’m explaining some issue on a file I think to myself, “Are you talking for your own benefit or for someone else’s?”  Most of the time I can tell.  Usually I don’t care.  And that’s probably bad.

If the person should understand what you’re saying then try to be concise.  If not, then explain yourself starting from their perspective.



  1. Oddly enough I understand what you’re communicating here. 😉

    I find it good practice to do at least two things:

    1. make sure the other person is listening. Really listening. I’ll start off a conversation with “filler chat” if I’m not sure I’m “in focus”.

    2. State the background of your point if there’s any doubt. This avoids the “wait, which “they and that” are you talking about?

    There’s more, but those basics help immensely.

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