You’re considered a smart person. You
- are a quick study
- have an encyclopedic knowledge on a variety of subjects
- know how to think and articulate things logically
- rarely find yourself at a loss for words
So many times you find yourself in conversations with people who may not share your gifts and understanding of different things. Here’s what I want to share with you today:
Your gifts and knowledge are only as good as your ability to present them in ways that the common person can understand them
your only barometer of how well you are getting through is to make high levels of eye contact with the listener and look for signs of recognition.
If you’re getting through, you can then move on to the next point, or know you can continue but communicating at a higher level. If you’re not, don’t be afraid to say,
- “Are you with me?”
- “Are you tracking with that?”
- “Have I lost you?”
- “That’s not too confusing, is it?”
But if that’s the axiom, here’s the corollary: Sometimes you find yourself in conversation with someone who
- is simply better educated
- has a much more specialized knowledge of or training in the subject at hand
- has progressed to an aspect of the topic that is above your pay grade
- processes things more quickly than you and therefore talks faster
Certainly at times like that humility sets in. And smart people need that to take place in their lives from time to time.1 In those situations:
A truly smart person won’t continue the conversation beyond the point where they’ve lost the plot
it’s okay to ask the person to backtrack so you can regroup your forces and continue.
Faking it — pretending you understand — is a terrible choice. In those moments don’t be afraid to say,
- “Can we go back to the previous point so I can see how we just got to where we are?”
- “What’s the ‘…for Dummies‘ version of how you would say that?”
- “What is the 25-words-or-less take-away of what you’re saying?”
- “I’m hearing you but I’m missing the nuances of that particular argument/distinction.”
Rarely if ever are our interactions a conversation of equals.2 Wisdom will dictate that you do all that is in your power to level the playing field as much as possible.
1 A really smart person won’t begin a sentence with “And;” but that’s another discussion.
2 Sometimes you have to ask yourself why you’re in the conversation to begin with. Jesus talked about casting pearls before swine. Are you simply trying to look intelligent to someone, or feign intelligence to someone else? Talking over someone’s head, or allowing someone to talk over yours for an extended period is just a waste of time. Wisdom lies in knowing when to proceed and when to bail and cut your losses.