Learning from left field

Draft of 2007.04.26 ☛ 2015.03.27

Sometimes when you’re explaining something important to an audience, somebody will nod and seem enthused, but then interrupt with a question which seems like it’s coming out of the blue. Some of us have a tendency to dismiss these questions as failures to communicate the core of our message clearly, or if we’re unsympathetic sorts we might dismiss the interlocutor as not paying attention.

On the other hand, if they’re asking a question you never anticipated, then they’re telling you about something you didn’t communicate to them. If it’s not pure explicit content, then it may well be they’ve missed the values and basic assumptions underlying your message.

If, for example, you tell them, “We’re going to do something very cool and change the fucking world,” and they ask you, “Where’s the money in that?” it may well be that you should have explained—first—why the money wouldn’t be important. Take the time to establish a rhetorical framework for your explanation in which the notion of the money is trivial, tangential, innocuous, absurd.

If they ask anyway, then just tell them you’re in it for the chicks. And move along to the next audience.

We don’t all have to understand everything.