Breaking the Curse of Knowledge

We all have it. It’s not our fault. It’s a challenging part of being human. But, there’s a cure.

It’s called the “Curse of Knowledge.”


It’s a Curse because it assumes. The Curse is a cognitive and emotional bias that a communicating individual has when expressing themselves to another or a group of other people. It assumes that others have the background, knowledge and insight on what we’re thinking, feeling and sensing.

What we’re aware of in our own hearts and minds, we assume that other people have awareness.

We see this happening in senior leaders of organization who can’t put themselves in the position of the newbie; in a college professor who’s forgotten what it’s like to be a curious and bewildered freshman; in governmental leaders who are so far removed from everyday life and the daily plight of middle-Americans they think the world exists in the political rhetoric realm.

It’s a Curse because it has detrimental effects on other people. We assume that others know what we know. We treat them as part of the cast of characters that exist within our heads. They’re not part of our cast, they have their own cast of characters and plenty on their own plate.

The Curse is not grounded in reality. It’s makes for messy, at best, communication. It’s confusing and dangerous.

The Curse gets amplified because we all have it, to some degree, and many of us are unaware. I have it, you have it, he has it, she has it.

Breaking the curse.

The more we’re aware that we have it, the more we can deploy empathy and thoughtfully express our thoughts, feelings, desires and wishes.

To break the Curse, we need to firmly and intentionally plant ourselves in the shoes of the other and walk a few miles in their inner and outer worlds. It takes slowing down to communicate clearly and intentionally. And, putting our smartphones down for a moment or two.

It takes understanding, compassion, mindfulness, active listening, and asking more questions. It takes real appreciation, even gratitude for what others are thinking, feeling and processing. It takes thoughtfulness.

Love and compassion for one another breaks the Curse.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” — Various names attributed (Plato, Philo, etc.)

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