By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q. I work with a very smart guy who seems to make everything complicated. We often have to explain projects to customers. How do I get him to dumb it down, so we don't lose projects, without insulting him?
A. If you don't want to insult your bright colleague, then realize smart people often don't realize that half the population doesn't think the way they do. Many very smart people don't realize two facts about communicating at work:
1) When talking to someone less intellectually capable than you, give lots of information to have them understand what you understood in two sentences. Don't express irritation about this.
2) Realize no one at work will admit when they don't understand you.
Albert Einstein (reportedly a fairly smart guy) once said, "If you can't explain it to a 6- year-old, you don't understand it yourself." Einstein makes an excellent point that understanding a concept may not be hard. Explaining that same concept to anyone else can be daunting.
Many of my very smart clients have spent long careers being offended that so many people ignored their good ideas. When I pointed out that most of their coworkers had no idea what they were talking about, my clients were shocked. They have never considered other people didn't understand their ideas.
Before your next important client meeting, meet privately with your coworker. Let him know that you admire his quick intellect. Let him know that you've noticed the clients don't seem to be as quick witted as he is. Tell him you want to give clients information an elementary student would track, and then brainstorm together.
Realize that your coworker probably has no clue that your clients feel dumb around him. Once he sees he is talking over the heads of your clients, he'll be motivated to simplify and expand what he says.
Just because your coworker is a bright guy doesn't mean he is insightful about human beings. We are usually so worried about our own inadequacies that we may not notice the vulnerability of others at work. Most clients would rather lose your help than lose face by admitting they can't understand what you are saying.
In the next meeting, your clients won't have to pick between losing face and losing your help. You'll get the projects, your colleague will get a clue, and your clients will get your expertise!
The last word(s)
Q. Is there a way to know when your career has hit a dead end?
A. Yes, when you can't make a door in the wall you keep hitting.
Q. A colleague and I are both applying for the same promotion. I'm worrying myself sick about skills and experience he might bring to the position that I don't have. Is there a way to make it clear he isn't very good at his job and increase my chances?
A. Yes, focus on highlighting your strengths, not downgrading his skills.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). Contact her at www.interpersonaledge.com
or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027.
This was printed in the March 24, 2013 - April 6, 2013 Edition