Clear Comm Consulting

The Problem With Smart People

Sep 20, 2007

How could there possibly be a problem with smart people? Employers are on an endless search for smart people to carry their companies to the next level. We like to surround ourselves with smart people to help us lift our game. And we are in such a short supply in this country we now search the world over looking for smart people. So, what’s the problem?

Well, it comes down to this: the problem with smart people is that they’re smart! They know so much — they have so much going on inside their heads — they often have a hard time sharing their wisdom with the rest of us.

How many times have you heard someone stand up to speak or listened to an interview with an obviously intelligent person only to walk away scratching your head? (It is timely this week, with Alan Greenspan releasing his book. When he was the leader of the Federal Reserve, Greenspan may have been the best example of someone who was clearly bright, but most people had no idea what he was talking about. He seemed to like it that way! Now that he wants to sell books, he’s doing a little better job of communicating.) You may have a smart person as a boss, or as an employee. Part of your job is to help them be understood when it’s their turn to shine, and that’s not easy. Here are three quick suggestions when handling a smart person:

Get them to understand their audience. If a smart person truly understands who their audience is, they will start the inner editing process necessary to reach those people. The biggest mistake is for a smart person to think they have to “talk down” to the audience. Those who are listening will sense it and the negative vibes quickly follow.

Simplify! The smart person needs to understand the audience just isn’t as knowledgeable or interested in the details. The smart person needs to simplify, hit the big points, spice it with a few interesting details, and leave the smaller stuff for the classroom or text book.

One bite at a time. Often a smart person will feel they have to explain everything in that interview or presentation. They need to understand there are a lot of ways to get their messages out — a speech, followed by an article or web posting and then maybe a book. Panic can set in for the smart person who feels this is their one chance to shine. With all of the communication options we now have available, there are many ways to tell the whole story — one piece at a time.

It is important to be clearly understood by every audience — and you are headed in the wrong direction if you try to baffle them with your brains!

Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting,, a Phoenix, AZ-based communications consulting firm which is helping people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at:

Follow along with Cary on Twitter @CaryPfeffer

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