This article was originally posted on the site in 2013, but we are posting it again as a StrengthCoach Classic to serve as a refresher and so newer members can see it.
I wrote an article about a concept referred to as The Curse of Knowledge a few weeks ago. If you haven't read Curse of Knowledge , stop reading and click the link. This article won't make any sense without first understanding why knowledge can be a curse.
Now that you understand it, I want to describe what I consider to be the number one symptom of someone suffering the Curse of Knowledge.
You know you have The Curse when you understand a topic so well that you can't readily explain it to a lay person. However the number one symptom of someone suffering from The Curse is beginning to speak about your topic in abbreviations.
My first frustrating experience with the “abbreviation/ curse of knowledge thing” occurred when my wife began her career as an occupational therapist.
Every night she would come home and “speak hospital” to me. When she finish her sentence I would say “what does that mean?”
She'd routinely say hospital stuff like “the RT and I worked on a lady with COPD today."
I gave her what I call the “dog look”. The dog look is the look your dog gives you when you talk to it. Head cocked to the side, kind of quizzical. The abbreviations drove me crazy.
Fast forward to my first experience with the Postural Restoration Institute ( the dreaded PRI, an abbreviation unto itself).
I was walloped again by Abbreviations and The Curse of Knowledge. Our guest speaker began to describe a few common syndromes and show us examples. Unfortunately from then on he only referred to these syndromes by their abbreviations. I was consistently looking back in my notes trying to remember what a left AIC was. While I was trying to remember what the abbreviation stood for the speaker was already describing the next issue. I was lost in the first few minutes. The speaker was too knowledgeable about the topic. Things that were confusing to me had become so second nature to him that he would refer to them by their abbreviations. I was not so lucky, so informed, or so smart.
So, just a quick note.
As you become expert in anything, try to remember that teaching is about learning. It's not about you. We know that you know what the abbreviations stand for. If you didn't understand the topic, you wouldn't use abbreviations. We know that you are an expert. However, there is a big difference between being an expert in subject matter and being an expert teacher. Next time you go to teach, lecture or present assume your audience does not remember terms that are second nature to you and literally spell it out for them every time ( I finally realize why we have the cliché “I'll spell it out for you”). You don't really have to spell it out, you have to speak it out.
Every time you get ready to use an abbreviation either in speaking or writing, remind yourself that the number one symptom of The Curse of Knowledge is speaking in abbreviations. Then remind yourself that there is a big difference between being an expert in a subject and being a great teacher. The great teachers make complex ideas simple.
The great teachers overcome The Curse of Knowledge to actually impart knowledge.