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The value of misunderstanding

Updated: Jul 30, 2023

A crucial factor that enables building startup momentum is relaying clearly understandable descriptions of these projects to our listeners. As a wise advisor recently asked me: ‘What’s the value if one doesn’t understand?!’ The simple answer: None whatsoever.


Apply the dynamics of that question to interaction at networking events when the inevitable inquiry about our professional livelihoods arises: why would one want to invest in, become involved with or continue learning about a project she or he cannot understand?


And one key clue as to whether the co-conversationalist does understand is the response. No questions typically means either full or no understanding, with the latter more often being the emphasis.


When I find myself in such situations, I’ll continue the conversation but, then, X seconds or no more than a minute later during that conversation I’ll pointedly ask: are you ever concerned that people don’t understand the startup you're describing?


During one pertinent instance, the immediate response did yet also did not surprise me. Fourteen of 15 people do not understand the description, the gentleman told me, prompting my suggesting he unpack the explanation, compartmentalize it and emphasize what others may find more important and applicable to their daily lives.


During another memorable conversation, a gentleman describing his project long spoke, clearly enthused about what he was up to as he continued on for at least several minutes uninterrupted. I was left unconvinced about how his project would benefit me, reminding me of the importance of another key lesson: less is more.


Another pointed occasion is when a conversation began about the need for some sort of communication assistance. As the conversation continued, my repeat questions regarding the gist of the project and how I could be helpful were met with resentment about my inability to understand.


A helpful remedy to assist with clarity is capitalizing on ‘fresh eyes’; as examples, a communicator skilled with the nuances of language can help engineers and attorneys avoid technical language and legalese, respectively.


Those fresh eyes help produce material understandable on a non-expert level for the purposes of expressing articulate, persuasive explanations.

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