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Effective Communication: Tell Them What Time It Is, Not How

By Susan Dunn, MA, Psychology, Emotional Intelli

We"ve all had people like this working for us, or with us. People who couldn't communicate their knowledge in a way that was effective, engaging, informative and interesting. What a waste of talent!

Do we have an obligation to make what we say interesting? No, but if we want people to listen to us, we must!
Do we have an obligation to make our knowledge accessible and informative to others? No, but what use is it if we don't?

Did you ever work with someone who knew their stuff but turned you off so completely you didn't want to stick around to get the valuable information or assistance you needed? In fact you avoided them and so did other colleagues and customers?

Do you have someone working for you now who is just so academic about things, even though you know they're an expert, you can't ever "get anything that's useful in real time?

Or maybe you know someone who simply bores you to tears, droning on and on, making you hunt through a bog of verbiage for what you need. This is the person who, when you ask what time it is, tells you how to build a watch. Way more than you needed, or wanted, and such a waste of your valuable time.


Pedantic - Boringly scholarly or academic; narrowly, stodgily, and often ostentatiously learned, as in showy or vainglorious.

Erudite - Possessing or displaying extensive knowledge acquired chiefly from books; profound, recondite (difficult for others to understand or comprehend) or bookish learning; to gain knowledge or understanding of or skill in by study, instruction, or experience


Turns people off vs. Turns people on
Self-centered vs. Helpful
Disliked vs. Liked


Alistair droned on, turning the presentation into a pedantic ego-trip, showing off how much he knew. He argued points that were strictly academic to the poor people trying to understand the theory of Emotional Intelligence and use it in real time. The HR Director watched the participants eyes glaze over and knew she had just wasted the company's valuable time and money, and probably turned the employees off to the idea of Emotional Intelligence as well.

Graciella, on the other hand, was a coach who was clearly erudite and really knew her stuff. She was able to engage the group and excite them about the practical possibilities of applying emotional intelligence to their work culture. They hung on her every word -- and most of her words were one-syllable! The HR Director knew they would leave the meeting with a clear understanding of the major points, and enthusiasm for applying what they"d learned.

Key Point

It's okay to know a lot, in fact it's a good thing and makes you a valuable employee, partner, and person, but only if you use it in conjunction with your Emotional Intelligence. If you are arrogant about it, or unable to express your valuable knowledge in a way that engages other people, it won't matter what you know. No one will be listening. (EQ matters more than IQ.)
It's okay to know a lot. It's not okay to be a know-it-all.


Better communication and teamwork.

About the Author
Susan Dunn, MA Psychology, Emotional Intelligence Coach, I help people become better communicators and develop their emotional intelligence through coaching, Internet courses and ebooks. Susan is the author of "Nonverbal Communication."

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