It Is Not Easy If You Cannot Explain It

I found a simple way for us to increase the knowledge in the world. It all starts with the conclusion that it’s not easy if you cannot explain it. If we only state that something is easy without explaining our reasoning behind it that knowledge remains in our mind. By explaining the things we claim as easy to others who feel otherwise we share the knowledge and help it expand. Let’s us evaluate that idea in depth.

*Plot Change*

I am in my room; it’s quiet. Every now and then I hear the sound of a rumbling motorbike engine across the street. I then start thinking of an incident that took place years back. Long story short, a student told me that a course I was struggling with was easy but later on ended up failing it while I passed it.

When I realized what happened I felt disappointed. I couldn’t understand why would someone so overconfidently state that a course is easy only to end up failing it. Was this a fake it till you make it attempt? It could be many different things, life happens, but based on my experience with that specific person I knew it was an overestimation. This is more of a case of someone overestimating their understanding of something, and that is not uncommon. David Dunning, PhD. a social psychologist once said that “People overestimate themselves, but more than that, they really seem to believe it.” he followed that by saying “I’ve been trying to figure out where that certainty of belief comes from.” This form of bias is often characterised as the Dunning–Kruger effect.

Socrates, a classical Greek Philosopher, seems to have met similar people himself, in a statement he said:

“I am wiser than this man, for neither of us appears to know anything great and good; but he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know.”

— attributed to Socrates, from Plato, Apology

It is challenging to find a striking balance and keep ourselves on the sweet spot between overestimation and underestimation. If we are honest we will admit that we all have found ourselves on either end and in-between.

Now back to our main point, how can we increase the knowledge in this world? I’ll sum it up as:

Listen -> Understand -> Ask -> Clarify -> Exemplify.

Diving Deeper – I’ll Explain

When someone tells you they find something hard or complicated, you believe it is easy or simple and you are about to voice your belief, instead, you can attempt approaching it in this way.

Listen: Allow the person to explain to you why they feel this way about that thing.

Understand: Try to understand which part is it that they don’t understand.

Ask: Ask questions if you need to, but don’t forget to do this key thing, ask if they’d like you to explain it to them. That is one of the most important aspects of this technique. If you cannot explain it to them then it might be the time you realize that It’s not easy if you cannot explain it and if it takes a long time to explain, then accept that it might be complicated.

Assuming you can explain it and the person is interested to hear your explanation, move on to the next step.
Clarify: Clarify the concept to the person as you understand it and in the simplest way possible. They might or might not understand your explanation but you have to be 100% sure that you comprehend the concept because if you don’t there is a high chance that they won’t understand you either.
For this, I will reference a fable of Aesop called The Crab and His Mother. Aesop is a Greek fabulist and storyteller, he has narrated several widely known stories such as the “The Tortoise and the Hare” and the “The Boy Who Cried Wolf“.

“An Old Crab said to her son, “Why do you walk sideways like that, my son? You ought to walk straight.”

The Young Crab replied, “Show me how, dear mother, and I’ll follow your example.”

The Old Crab tried, but tried in vain, and then saw how foolish she had been to find fault with her child.”

Moral of the story: An example is better than precept.

If you cannot provide an example, then you should question your understanding of the concept.

Provide a powerful example and leave there. Because at the end of the day it might take a while for someone to fully comprehend and digest what you are telling them. At the same time, there are some people who are not genuinely interested to learn. In the end of the day, as Daniel Greenberg, an American Educator, says:

Explain and leave things as is because in the end of the day as Daniel Greenberg says,"You can't make someone learn something - you really can't teach someone something - they have to want to learn it. And if they want to learn, they will. "

Picture by Peter Hershey

The next time you find yourself saying that something is easy if you want to impart some of your knowledge to others, try this technique! This is especially helpful when interacting with people who might not have access to the amount of information that you do. Share the knowledge and let it spread.
Interested in reading more? Check out my previous Open Letter to YouTube by clicking here.

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