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Articulate Your Thoughts

The Expert's Pitfall

We all know that being an expert at something helps create a clear path to success.  Actively developing a skill to the extent that you can do it well without even thinking is referred to as "unconscious competence."  But, for many people there's also a downside to developing this expertise: you understand something so well, that you can't fathom why someone else doesn't understand it.  Therefore, you can't explain it well to others, particularly in written communication.  I call this phenomenon "the expert's pitfall."  As an expert in your field, do you fall into this trap?    

The concept first occurred to me when I took college level math classes as an adult.  (I've had difficulty with math since middle school.)  College professors are usually subject matter experts, selected for their research and publications, rather than any teaching abilities.  As a result, universities are often filled with the most gifted experts, who may or may not have strong teaching skills.  And this creates a lot of difficulty for students who grapple with certain subjects-- advanced math in my case. 

As I struggled through college algebra I began to have a little success by sheer determination and repetition (a lot of time and sweat).  Then, about mid-way through the semester, I started helping classmates understand the assignments.  I soon realized that I could help others because I understood why they didn't understand the problems (conscious competence). 

The professor couldn't explain the more difficult concepts to those of us who struggled because he had no idea why we didn't understand.  He was such a math expert (unconscious competence), that he couldn't figure out why we had such difficulty: the expert's pitfall.  I could explain the problems, precisely because I wasn't a math expert.       

You are an expert in your chosen field, therefore you might have the expert's pitfall.  Can you clearly articulate the benefits of your products or services to your market?  Or, are you so knowledgeable that you can't imagine why prospects and clients don't understand what you're talking about?  Sometimes an outside perspective can help you see why clients or prospects don't see the full benefits of your product or service.  Send me a DM and we can set up a time to chat about the expert's pitfall.

Amanda Tossberg