Whose Responsibility is Clarity?


Too often I believe that purveyors of information/knowledge tend to leave the burden of comprehension of what is being communicated solely to the recipient of that knowledge; all too often, they forget about their responsibility to most fundamentally communicate what they are saying clearly and in a manner that is adapted to the needs of their audience.

Think about this in the context of your day to day life. Imagine a time when someone has asked you a question about some aspect of your life, job, area of expertise, etc that you know backwards and forwards, up and down. For this topic you will be able to rattle off a detailed answer to the question, you will anticipate every single follow-up question that someone could ask of you, and most importantly if the explanation is not understood you will have 2 or 3 other ways of explaining the same thing in your back pocket just in case the 1st explanation was not clear.

Now imagine an alternative scenario. Think about a topic you have just recently become familiar with. You have obtained a surface level understanding of something and when questioned about it you stand, secretly hoping you can cover the surface level information and get the hell out of there. You end up speaking intelligently enough about this part of the question that the questioner pushes you further, expecting you to be able to go deeper. In a futile attempt you begin to go deeper, all the while knowing you are venturing into uncharted territory – wanting to help provide information but not wanting to offer false data. Suddenly your answers become confusing and obfuscated. Even as it is happening you know the latter half of this discussion is not as clear as it should be. As is often the case however, people don’t back out and offer to clear the topic up in their head and get back to the person, they merely continue on this zig-zag path towards the land of confusion. We’ve all been there on the sending and receiving side of things.

What is the end result? Well my suggestion is two sided when you are the sender and you recognize being in this position:

  1. Take the path less travelled get the details you need to be able to explain the topic fully and clearly.
  2. Take responsibility for the receiver leaving with an understanding of what you are saying!

When you are on the receiving end, the key is to recognize when the sender is weaving you into the land of confusion and since you now demand so much of yourself as a sender, demand no less when receiving information from someone else.

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