How to Share Complicated Information

Sometimes we have to communicate complicated things. We get partway through explaining it and the bewildered stare on the other person’s face makes us realize we lost them. Having a method for determining if an explanation is going to get messy and how to proceed can help minimize misunderstanding and confusion.

Ask yourself these questions:

Are there more than three points of required understanding (How many and/or if/then’s you are about to use)?
The human brain is an amazing piece of equipment. But too many variables at one time will absolutely cause it to shutdown. When you are sharing information that comes with and/or, if/then statements or is many paragraphs long, explain them one at a time and check for understanding before you move on. Asking “do you have any questions” or “do you understand” is not your best option (people will nod even if they’re completely lost). If it is feasible, ask the person to explain it back to you. At the end make sure you leave the door open for the person to come back for clarification. If you expect them to just get it on the first try, they are likely to try to fake it. We all know what a mess that can make.

Do I understand what I am about to explain well enough to do it without talking in circles or backtracking?
Too often we launch into an explanation and realize too late we really don’t know exactly where we were going. If you’re not sure if you can be clear, try to explain it to someone who already understands and ask them for feedback. Too many words can be even more confusing than too few.

Is the information within the expertise of the other person?
Have you ever been in a conversation and felt like there was a big section of it that came before you entered the room? When we forget to consider that we have an expertise that the person we are talking to doesn’t we unintentionally talk over their head. Many businesses make the mistake of sending out memos that the recipient does not have the expertise to understand and properly incorporate into their work. Then management complains that workers are “stuck in their ways and unwilling to change”. What is “common knowledge” to you might not be all that common to the person you’re talking to. Make sure you start where they are.

Does the person have the foundational knowledge they will need to understand what I am about to share?
Even if something is within my expertise if I’m not up to speed on a project or idea my brain is going to be scrambling around looking for the information that “goes with” what you are telling me. I had a retainer client email me about “the project leader on the big project”. Fortunately it was an email because it took my brain several seconds to recall who and what he was talking about. If we had been on the phone I would have missed those seconds in the conversation while my brain “looked” for that information. When you’re about to share complicated information, give enough background information for the other person to key into past information you have shared.

When you have information to share with someone, take a moment to put yourself in their shoes. You are much more likely to approach the conversation in a way that creates communication rather than confusion and misunderstanding if you have a basic idea of where they are, how they will react to what you are sharing and what you want them to do with it when you are done.

Have you ever been completely lost in a conversation but were afraid to look dumb by saying so?

As always, I wish you the MOST from your potential!

Doc Robyn

PS - If you are in the Wilmington, Delaware area I will be moderating a panel of professional copywriters sharing how you can make your written words more powerful, create better calls to action and write better stories to increase your sales. Go here to learn more and register.

Dr. Robyn Odegaard (aka “Doc Robyn”) is internationally known motivational speaker, executive coach and corporate trainer. As CEO of Champion Performance Development, she works with executives, professionals, athletes, and coaches to help them achieve excellence by sharing active leadership, powerful teamwork, conscious communication, Productive Conflict™ and professional disagreement skills. She is the founder of the Stop The Drama! Campaign and author of the books Stop The Drama! The Ultimate Guide to Female Teams and The Ultimate Guide to Handling Every Disagreement Every Time. To work with her, have her present to your team, request a custom workshop or invite her to speak at your event, please call 302-307-3091 or email her at to discuss her availability.

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