Episteme

Mike's random thoughts and ramblings

Explain it in a way that they understand...

I sometimes sit in meetings and play the amusing game of imagining that the two people who are going back and forth are actually speaking different languages. I hear one talking in swahili and the other in mandarin, and I envision whether or not they're going to manage to make agreement just by watching expressions, body language and listening to tone.

It's a fun game... you really should try it sometime, especially when in a meeting where there's one person who just doesn't seem to "get it".

I was reminded of this game when I saw one of Michael's posts recently, with this sage advice:

"Ask a user what their biggest security challenge is - and then explain it to them in a way they understand .... During the conversation, ask them about a challenge they have at home with security (or at work). Let them explain it - don’t jump in immediately with the solution. Ask some questions, pay attention and then offer to provide some insight, like this, “would it be useful if I shared some of my experiences with you when I dealt with that?” - see, that sets you up to share - and not tell in a condescending way. Then take some time to find a common ground and language, and work to explain a possible solution to your colleague in their words. This is decidedly a challenge, but if you make a habit of this - you’ll truly grow your abilities to explain how to protect information."

This is brilliant advice, and something that we have a tendency to focus on far too rarely. We give people answers or solutions, but without taking the time to first understand their problems in their language. Because of that, we come out sounding like the ones who are speaking in Swahili.

Or, even worse, we come out sounding like Nick Burns, your Company Computer Guy. As a young sys admin, those SNL sketches were the best education I ever had for how to be a great computer professional. And, having met one or two IT pros who acted a little too much like that.

Share this post

About the author

Michael Murray

Michael Murray