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Old 2012-02-20, 15:34   Link #21
Love Yourself
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Northeast USA
Age: 33
Originally Posted by SaintessHeart View Post
I am talking about the people who say "What has Iran got to do with petrol prices", "What has oil prices got to do with food prices", "How does the way Wall Street work affect our investments" and "Why are you bringing up rate of fuel consumption when we are talking about buying cars", and when I use economics and science to explain it to them, the blank stare stays.

I am not going to deride them as "idiots" because I have seen worse, and these are nice people who actually brought up the fact that they don't understand. What I am interested is how to explain "complex" topics in "simple" terms but not oversimplifying them that it overgeneralises.
Irenicus and TinyRedLeaf have basically said it, but I'd like to express it in my own words, too. It's all a matter of gauging your audience's pre-existing knowledge and interest.

For example, suppose I'm telling you about my research. My research involved manipulating cells in the immune system, such that a cell that has been found to protect cancer will now incite the body to attack it. You know what immunology is, you know what cancer is, and you understand what I just said. It's meaningful to you. If I were talking to someone in a field of immunology but unrelated to my specific field, I might go a bit farther and remark on what those specific cell types are, and what cytokines (signaling molecules) are involved. If I'm talking to someone who researches the same cell types as I do, I might even go into the specific receptors and cell signaling pathways are involved. To give any specifics to someone in a group less related to my research area will be meaningless - they won't follow what I just said, they'll be bored and possibly frustrated by being left out, and I'll be wasting their (and my) time.

It's probably a bit easier to gauge knowledge in scientific research, because the average person outside of your research field can be assumed to know practically nothing about your area. With economics and light science, people occasionally read about it in the news or feel that they have a grasp of it, even if they truly don't.

If you can effectively gauge your audience's level of understanding and talk to it, you will be a masterful presenter and teacher.

If you have difficulty with it, you're not a lost cause when it comes to small discussions or conversations. To effectively gauge your partner(s)'s understanding, make sure to have them involved. For example, before I wind up talking about my research to someone totally unknown, I ask, "how much immunology would you say you're familiar with?" If they're a bit uncertain, I may drop some specifics (cell type names). Even after establishing their baseline, I'll occasionally check with them or try to get them involved to make sure that they're still following, and still interested. When in doubt, go with simplicity, but keeping your partner involved and closely monitoring their facial expressions, mannerisms, and body language goes a long way toward ensuring that you're effectively connecting with them.
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