7 reasons Why MANY smart people have trouble communicating their ideas

All smart people are brilliant – in their heads. MANY have a problem communicating that brilliance to others. Whether they are pitching something to their boss, getting a buy-in from their co-workers or making a case for their product or service with their prospects, they lose the listeners half-way and frustrate themselves.

One explanation will be to say that people around them are not smart enough to “get” what they are saying.

Unfortunately, in nine out of ten cases, that explanation won’t fly.

However, if smart people start believing this, the confirmation bias will ensure that they will get enough proof to support their assessment.

One reason to blame others for their communication problems is the convenience it provides. If they put the responsibility of understanding what they are saying to the listener, they can simply run away from their responsibility for communication. It is easier to complain than to take that responsibility.

OK rather than contemplating further, here are a few reasons for the communication breakdown:

#1. Smartness automatically does not make one a good communicator

Smart people are smart in their field of work. That does not automatically provide a license to excel in communication. Yes, they can figure out a few things “on the go” about communication but it’s never the same as “investing” in learning how to communicate well.

Communication is a skill. It simply involves two things – transmission and reception. A good communicator takes full responsibility for both these things.

#2. Many smart people forget to listen

Why is it hard for many smart people to “listen well”?


a) They may be busy with their own thing – too many fun things going on to pay attention to what someone else is saying. In other words, they have no time to listen.


b) What they are listening may not be of immediate interest.

What has listening got to do?


Skipping the listening part would mean less knowledge of knowing what’s important to the person they are communicating with. This means they lost the opportunity to frame what they are telling in a way that the listener will find relevant.

#3. Many times they skip “obvious” details.

They have thought very well about their idea. It is crystal clear to them in their mind. When they start outlining the core elements of their idea, they skip a few of them – not intentionally but why repeat somethings that are “too obvious” and annoy the audience. They are passionate about their idea and it is clearly demonstrated. In their mind, the “skipped elements” are so obvious that they don’t even have it in their plan to include them in their communication.

The listener on the other hand is seeing witnessing a “fill-in-the-blanks” puzzle. He can see the enthusiasm and passion. There is no question about that. But the idea seems like it’s not been completely thought through.

Now, the listener has a choice to request more details and try to make more attempts. But the listener is busy too and it’s convenient to not bother much or simply appreciate the idea and cite a couple of “obvious” roadblocks during the implementation phase and move on.

#4. They use the weapon of communication destruction: Jargon

Recently someone I know pitched me an idea. In the first 90 seconds, he used four acronyms and at least two words that I am sure I thought were not part of English. I was busy decoding the puzzle than trying to understand the idea.

By the time I figured out by googling for a few terms, the person had moved on. The train had left the station.

Jargons may provide shortcuts when discussing something with their cohorts but outside of their circle, people may have no clue about what these “terms” mean.

#5. Sometimes they forget about what else is required to execute the idea

In the grand scheme, an idea is only a small part of the game. There it lot more to executing an idea than presenting it. The listener (especially if he or she is the Boss who needs to approve it) is thinking about “all the other things” that needs to happen to make this idea a reality. When the listener does not see a well thought through execution plan or does not have the belief that the person with the idea can come up with one, there is a good chance that the listener will dismiss the idea (also see the next point #6 related to this) and move on.

Sometimes the best thing would be to make the idea somebody else’s and give them full credit. That would require “letting go of the ego and credit” and it’s not easy.

#6. Sometimes they forget “timing.”

They say nobody can stop an idea whose time has come. I don’t know about that. But there will be many people who will be ready to stop an idea whose time has NOT come.

They may have a brilliant idea but if “timed wrong,” it will go nowhere.

#7. Their past history lacks “follow through”

Last but not the least, their past history of “not following through” with their ideas haunts them. They may have presented a dozen ideas but didn’t follow through with any of them for various reasons including the most common one – “chasing the next idea that looks more promising than the previous one.”

With that kind of a past, the listener has “lost” them even before they begin narrating their idea. In the mind of the listener, this is “one of the many” ideas that will bite the dust in no time. So why bother listening?


You may also be interested in other mini-research outcomes:

1. Why some smart people are reluctant to share? (Dec 26, 2009)

2. Why nice people will win BIG TIME in the long run? (Jan 15, 2010)

3. Why some people work hard but don’t get appreciated for that work? (Feb 22, 2010)

4. Why some smart people don’t take action? (Mar 14, 2010)

5. Why many smart people are taken for granted? (Mar 28, 2010)

6. 9 Reasons why MANY smart people go nowhere (Mar 29, 2010)

7. Why MANY smart people take shortcuts and how you can avoid that trap ( May 3, 2010 )