'I don't understand' vs. 'That is not understandable'

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/09/18 09:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2006/09/18/760289.aspx


There are a lot of really smart people working for Microsoft.

But some of them are some very sheltered really smart people in some parts of Microsoft.

(When I say sheltered, I refer here to being sheltered from direct contact with customers -- this sheltered person can be anything from a developer to a PUM or whatever.)

It leads to an interesting problem when someone who as a part of their job works more directly with customers (where posting in a blog or speaking at a conference or doing product support or writing documentation of whatever) tries to explain a concern they have about a particular product/strategy/plan/technology with one of those sheltered people.

What they are basically trying to communicate is that

PEOPLE ARE NOT UNDERSTANDING THE [PRODUCT|STRATEGY|PLAN|TECHNOLOGY]

but what that sheltered person hears instead is

I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE [PRODUCT|STRATEGY|PLAN|TECHNOLOGY]

and then that sheltered person goes on to explain where this poor person has just failed to understand things. They will in many cases be respectful, but in that slightly condescending way that sheltered people are when they are speaking to a colleague they don't know who does not seem to get something.

You know, mails that start like "I think it is great that you are passionate, but you aren't grokking ____________." And so on.

These days I witness it more often than I am on the receiving end of it, thankfully -- as I have learned to try to ask and keep the word CUSTOMER really in front of things so that there is no misunderstanding who has not gotten the info in a way they could parse it.

It also does not really happen much in the group I am in, which is a relief since there have been times over the last decade that this was not the case.

But I am on a lot of aliases. More and more I seem to find myself witnessing this problem. And I have trouble understanding how sometimes people who are so brilliant in other respects can be so obtuse in this one.

It is by no means everyone. But it never fails to annoy.

I am still working on a way to try and work with people solve this one. The problem happens often enough that some kind of generic strategy should be effective....

I'll let you know if I think of something beyond the simple things I have done to keep it from happening to me. :-)

 

This post brought to you by ? (U+003f, a.k.a. QUESTION MARK)


BlakeHandler on 18 Sep 2006 12:48 PM:

“I have trouble understanding how sometimes people who are so brilliant in other respects can be so obtuse in this one.”

Wow, I wish I was perfect! We all fall into this category in some aspect of our lives. Some people ignore sound advice from their Doctor about smoking, dirking or exercise. Your Dentist would love for you to floss more often. Financial planner’s advice are usually ignored. And many brilliant people have yet to “understand” the thinking of the opposite sex.

After having children, I personally have learned that it’s OK to be ignorant in so many areas. While you obviously can see these characteristics in others -- I think a quick poll of your close friends and colleagues could reveal your own shortcoming.

Are you ready for those answers? (^_^)

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