That’s Bert at left, giving The Talk.
Alas, I am cursed.
Well, not me so much. The other me. The shrinky part.
In the past two weeks Steve met with three new clients and gave each of them his latest version of The Talk.
The Talk is what I call his attempt to compress the theory he’s been developing for two decades into a five-minute sound bite.
He’s been doing this for years now, editing and reshaping and tweaking The Talk along the way. But I get nervous whenever he gives it.
I’m afraid he’s confusing people.
And that’s because I suspect all his explanations are fatally afflicted by the so-called Curse of Knowledge.
“Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it,” write Chip and Dan Heath.* “Our knowledge has ‘cursed’ us. And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create our listeners’ state of mind.”
Steve’s theory is about the idea of control. And control is an idea he’s has been immersed in for so long — reading and writing and thinking and talking and even, god help us, dreaming about it — that I fear it’s impaired his ability to communicate with normal people.
So, dear reader, I have a favor to ask you.
Read The Talk below. It’s short, just 269 words.
Then write back and tell me your reaction.
Which parts are clear? Which parts are confusing? Which parts do you need to have explained more?
* * *
Control means the ability to dictate reality —
to make people, places and things
behave the way we want them to.
We each carry around in our heads
a picture of the reality we want.
And we constantly compare that picture
to the reality we have.
Anything we do to bring those two closer together
— to change what we have into what we want —
I call controlling.
Studying this phenomenon
has led me to four conclusions:
(1) We’re all addicted to control.
(2) This addiction causes most
(maybe all) emotional problems.
(3) Behind all controlling is
the wish to control feelings.
(4) There are better ways to handle feelings
Now, this view of control can be confusing,
because so often control is so clearly
a good and necessary thing.
I won’t willingly surrender control
when I’m driving my car on wet pavement,
or my kid gets sick and needs a doctor,
or garbage piles up in my kitchen,
or a mosquito tries to bite me,
or in any of a million other
there are two areas where
controlling tends to cause
more problems than it solves:
~ Overcontrolling feelings
tends to make us sick —
anxious, depressed, addicted;
~ Overcontrolling other people
tends to annoy, scare,
and alienate them.
So each of us
needs to examine the role
control plays in our lives.
Which means we need to learn how to
(a) notice when we’re controlling,
(b) decide if our controlling is healthy or not,
(c) learn alternatives to
the unhealthy sort.
* * *
What is the Curse of Knowledge, and how does it apply to science education, persuasion, and communication? No, it’s not a reference to the Garden of Eden story. I’m referring to a particular psychological phenomenon that can make our messages backfire if we’re not careful.
From Overcoming the curse of knowledge. by Jesse Galef.
*Chip & Dan Health, Made to stick: Why some ideas survive and others die