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Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker: The No. 1 communication mistake that even smart people make

The “curse of knowledge”

It is a cognitive bias that describes the fact that when you know something, it's very difficult to know what it's like not to know it.

The things you know seem so obvious to you and you assume that everyone else knows them too.

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Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker: The No. 1 communication mistake that even smart people make

Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker: The No. 1 communication mistake that even smart people make

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/20/harvard-psychologist-steven-pinker-shares-no-1-communication-mistake.html

cnbc.com

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Key Ideas

The “curse of knowledge”

It is a cognitive bias that describes the fact that when you know something, it's very difficult to know what it's like not to know it.

The things you know seem so obvious to you and you assume that everyone else knows them too.

Test out your message

Seek feedback. What it's obvious to you might not be obvious to the others. 

Show your message to other people and have them honestly say how clear it is to them.

Choose your words carefully

Use words that will help people understand what you’re trying to say rather than words that are confusing or distracting.

Avoid using jargon, idioms and obscure metaphors.

Take a break

Write your message and put it aside. Come back to it after a while and read it again. 

It will give you a fresh perspective on it.

Edit savagely

The most important part of writing is rewriting.

For every sentence, ask: ‘Is that actually conveying to someone other than me what I mean for it to convey? Can I state it more succinctly, more concretely?’

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Letters Of Condolence
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  • You’ll want to calibrate what you write to your relationship both with the recipient and with the deceased. Make it personal.
  • If you knew the deceased well, sharing a couple of warm memories will let the recipient feel there’s a shared bond.
  • If you didn’t know the deceased, you can make respectful reference to what you knew of them.
  • Use tact. Don’t tell the recipient how they should be feeling.
  • If you’re finding it hard to know what to say, you can acknowledge that; but don’t harp on it.
  • Avoid operatic, or competitive, expressions of grief.
  • Acknowledge, but don’t belabour, the grief and pain they feel.
  • Focus on the individual excellence of the deceased rather than the consequences of the loss itself.
  • Be tactful of their religion even if you don’t believe in it. 

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Make The Readers Feel Something

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Structure And Revise

You need to have a beginning that builds to a middle and an ending, or at least an idea of where you’re going, as it is key to explore your themes and foreshadow things properly.

Another important thing is to revise your writings. Your first draft is likely to contain multiple errors, poorly phrased sections, and inconsistencies.

Surprise The Reader

To do it, you must know what your audience expects from the type of writing you’re doing and then defy it.

Without the surprise, without the twist, if you don’t pull the wool over the audience’s eyes, then it’s unlikely you’re going to be memorable. It’s precisely the fact that things are not what they seem that makes a story interesting.

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The Feynman technique for teaching and communication is a mental model (a breakdown of his personal thought process) to convey information using to the point thoughts and simple language.

Feynman started to record and connect the things he did know with those he did not know, resulting in a thorough notebook of subjects that had been disassembled, translated, and recorded.

We can use this same model to learn new concepts.

“In order to talk to each other, we have to have words, and that’s all right. It’s a good idea to try to see the difference, and it’s a good idea to know when we are teaching the tools of sc...

“In order to talk to each other, we have to have words, and that’s all right. It’s a good idea to try to see the difference, and it’s a good idea to know when we are teaching the tools of science, such as words, and when we are teaching science itself.” 

Richard Feynman

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