How to explain things better and make others understand your ideas easily

Speaking requires clarity as well as precision that can help one to send his message across. Your workplace might require you to speak publicly or to a bunch of newbies.

When it comes to explaining technical concepts, you need to choose words that can help them in to understand the concept in simple terms. If you are looking at how to be better at explaining things, then this might be the end of your search.

There are a lot of times where you have to explain about different things or concepts. For this purpose, you cannot rely on your speaking skills alone. You have to consider a lot of other factors that can assist you in getting the correct point across.

How to Be Better at Explaining Things

Explaining can sometimes be a difficult task. If you can master the skills of speaking and explaining things, then there is a high chance that you can convey the message easily. This great explainer video can help you in knowing the right strategies and ways to explain things.

Nervousness or anxiety can sometimes intervene in your way to be a better speaker or to be better at explaining things. You need to make sure that you are overlooking these factors and fighting hard enough to overcome any barrier.

Once you have overcome these barriers, you will be all set to explain things better to your peers or subordinated or on any platform.

Following are 11 tips and strategies that can you can follow to be able to explain better.

1. Know Your Audience

The foremost important aspect of explaining things is to know about your audience. This is one of the basic rules when it comes to knowing the answer to “how to explain?”

If you are using verbosity and your audience is unable to understand the dialect, then it is pointless. Make sure you know your audience beforehand. This would help you to make use of the right ways and words in order to make them understand your stance or conversation.

This is a common mistake that people tend to make. Avoid it and be a better explainer.

2. Use Multiple Perspectives

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to using a perspective. You can use an indirect means to approach your audience or rely on the direct means to be able to converse with them directly without building any background.

You can also use the practical or theoretical method.

Learn about these perspectives so that you can design and shape your speaking skills.

3. Have a Clear Idea

If you are uncertain about things, then there is a high chance that your audience would be left confused. For this to be avoided, you must be clear about things.

Make sure you note things down on a piece of paper. You can make notes or pointers that can help you during the speaking session.

Make sure you are not leaving any important detail so that your audience is clear about the concept.

You should expect questions as well. So be prepared to answer them.

4. Make Use of Visuals

Visuals come in handy and assist you in making things simple and easy.

There is a scenario where you are supposed to explain a scientific or technical aspect. Theory alone cannot help you. For this purpose, you can rely on visuals. You can make a PowerPoint presentation, a flowchart or use pictures to help your audience learn more about the concept.

This would require you to put effort, but the outcome would be amazing.

5. Be Specific

This is another mistake that people tend to make. While making a conversation or explaining things they tend to drift away from the main topic. This not only confuses the listeners but also creates a gap between the speaker and his audience.

So be specific and try to stay focused. This would help you to be precise.

6. Use Examples

This can be another strategy that can be helpful in making people understanding the concept. Bring in examples and try to connect things. Making connections and using examples are some of the ways that can better help you in explaining things.

7. Make Your Audience Curious

This can be a very effective strategy. Do you want to keep your audience interested? Worried about how do you explain? Well, this can be resolved.

Start the conversation with an open-ended situation. Give them an incomplete answer and this will make them curious.

They will participate more and learn more thus making your job easy.

8. Storytelling

This method is very effective when it comes to explaining things. You can use a storytelling technique to initiate the conversation. This technique will help you to learn how to be better at explaining things.

9. S-T-A-R Framework

S-T-A-R stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result.

For this you can first present the situation, explain the tasks that were required, the action that was taken and the results that were achieved.

10. Overcome Your Fears

You do not have to be scared or fearful when it comes to speaking. Stammering and stuttering are often the causes of fear of public speaking.

It should be addressed from the beginning.

Speech therapy for children who are non-verbal is essential. It not only affects their ability to speak but might as well make them socially incapable to communicate with other people.

This is the reason that any uncertainty about speech and language therapy should be ignored. Here are 5 reasons why speech and language therapy is important for a non-verbal child.

As an adult, you can overcome it by practicing in front of a mirror.

11. Ask Questions

To keep the audience engaged you must ask them questions. This would allow them to participate fully and they will take part in group discussions. This would lead to more clarification of the concept.

These are some of the tips and strategies that can be used when it comes to explaining.

Explaining is Easy When You Know How

Considering these tips and strategies you can now feel the confidence and clarity that is needed when you have to explain things.

These tips and strategies can help you learn how to be better at explaining things.

For more tips and tricks to improve your life skills, check out other articles on our blog.

Whether you’re the household tech support or just an avid researcher who is always trying to teach friends what you learn, explaining complicated topics is tough. Here’s how to do it so people can actually understand you.

No matter what your profession, you likely have to explain complicated topics to people who don’t understand. Maybe you’re a scientist trying to explain DNA to your grandmother, a literature professor explaining metafiction to drinking buddy, or an IT professional explaining networking to your significant other. Regardless of what you’re explaining, you can make it easier on yourself (and the person trying to learn). We’ll use a few tech-related examples below, but these tips apply regardless of what you’re explaining.

Ask Them If They Want to Learn

This might sound silly, but the first thing you should do before jumping into a long-winded explanation of how something works is ask if the person wants to learn. Generally speaking, if they’re interested, they’ll learn better, focus more, and actually take something away from the conversation.

This is especially the case with certain tech projects. For example, I recently had a friend ask for help setting up a Raspberry Pi as a retro game console . I gave him a list of parts and had him order everything. A few days later he showed up at my house with everything in a plastic bag. I pulled everything out, told him what it all was and how it worked before I started to walk him through the steps. As he reached for his phone to start playing a game, I quickly realized what was actually happening: He recruited me to set this up for him, not show him how to do it himself.

How to Build a Raspberry Pi Retro Game Console

Since its release, the $35 Raspberry Pi mini-computer has been hailed as the perfect all-in-one…

So, I asked him point blank: “Do you want to know how this works, or do you want me to just do it?” He replied, “I don’t care, just make it work.” I did, and sent him on his way (note: I generally don’t recommend doing this, since now you’re on the hook for tech support if they refuse to learn themselves). Some people want you to do the work for them and can’t be bothered with learning. Before you start, ask them what they really want.

Find Ways to Make It Matter to Them

We tend to learn best when we’re interested in something and we’re interested in topics when they relate to us directly. When you’re trying to explain a complicated topic to someone, it’s best to play on that egocentric behavior and show what’s in it for them. For technology, you can usually play off of people’s desire for security, privacy, or simplicity.

Since you’re here reading Lifehacker, we can probably assume that you pay attention to security and you use a password management tool like LastPass (if you aren’t, you should ). Anyone who keeps up tech news knows that a password management tool is necessary these days, but explaining that to a person who uses the same password for everything isn’t as easy as you’d think. The trick is to find a way to make it matter to them.

The Only Secure Password Is the One You Can’t Remember

Let’s assume you log onto a bunch of different websites; Facebook, Gmail, eBay, PayPal, probably…

If they hate forgetting their passwords all the time, I’d argue that a password manager makes their lives easier by storing all their passwords in one place. If they’re worried about accounts getting hacked , I’d point out that a password manager makes their accounts safer. If they seemed interested, I’d go ahead and also pitch two-factor authentication and segue into talking about internet security as a whole.

The Best and Worst Online Retailers, Ranked by Password Security

Time and again we’ve been reminded that we, as a society, pretty much suck at choosing passwords.…

You want to find the hook that catches them and go from there. Keep fishing until you find what matters and the rest of the explanation is easy.

Explain Concepts Using Details They Already Know

The idea of connecting ideas to what someone already knows has been a common teaching technique since Socrates , but it works because it’s one of the best ways to explain ideas. Essentially, as the BBC notes , you want find related information people already know and expand on that.

For example, some of my relatives have a hard time understanding what I do for a living—they’ve never heard of a “blog.” I could spend time talking about RSS feeds, what a post is, or how a content management system works. Or I could just describe it using terms they understand: “it’s a magazine, but online,” is enough that most people will understand the basic idea.

That’s incredibly simplistic, but it gets the point across. The more you can pull from information people already have and analogies they already understand, the better they’ll understand the core concepts you’re showing them.

Know What Details to Leave Out

When you understand a concept, it’s easy to think of every detail as important, but when you’re trying to explain that complicated concept to someone else, you should leave certain details out. Some things just aren’t as important as they seem when you’re learning a new topic, and you can always come back to those details later. For example, if you’re explaining how a wireless network works, you’d start with the basic idea of what a router does, and leave out less important details like wireless channels or bands.

Your main objective is to get a point across and help someone understand a difficult concept. Strange terminology, names, or specific processes rarely matter. In most cases you can just say “cable” instead of “USB” or “web site” instead of “URL.” If they don’t have direct bearing to the person’s life or the idea you’re explaining, skip over it.

Synonyms

explain

to tell someone something in a way that helps them understand it better

define

put across

to explain an idea, belief etc in a way that is easy to understand

interpret

to explain the meaning of something

clarify

formal to explain something more clearly so that it is easier to understand

explain yourself

to tell someone what you mean in a clear way that they can easily understand

run through

to explain or to read something quickly

set out

to explain, describe, or arrange something in a clear and detailed way, especially in writing

lay out

get across

amplify

formal to explain something more thoroughly or give it more emphasis

cast (new/fresh) light on something

demystify

develop

disambiguate

to make clear the meaning of a word, phrase etc that has more than one meaning

dumb down

to make something simpler and easier to understand in a way that reduces its quality

elucidate

expand

to talk or write more about something, adding more details or information

expatiate

very formal to talk or write a lot or in great detail about something

explicate

very formal to make the meaning of a piece of writing, a plan etc clear

expound

very formal to explain something or to express your opinion about it in detail

flesh out

to add more details about something in order to make it easier to understand or imagine

get through to

to make someone understand what you are trying to say

gloss

to give an explanation of a word or a piece of writing

go into

to talk about something in a lot of detail

go into

idiot-proof

informal to make something so easy to use that it is impossible to use it wrongly

illuminate

formal to make something clear and easier to understand

illumine

illustrate

impress on

to try to make someone understand how important something is

make something plain/make yourself plain

to say something so that it is obvious what you mean

open someone’s eyes to something

to make someone realize the truth about a situation

oversimplify

to explain or consider something in a way that makes it seem more simple than it really is

pinpoint

to discover or explain exactly what something is

press something home

to repeat or explain something carefully so that you are certain someone understands it completely

to state or explain something

put a human face on something

to make something seem more real or easier to understand, because you meet or hear about people who are involved

put flesh on (the bones of) something

to give more details about something so that people can see more clearly what it would be like

put/set someone right

to make someone understand that a situation is different from what they thought it was

put someone straight/right (on/about something)

to explain the real facts about a situation to someone who does not understand it correctly

put something into words

put yourself across

to express your ideas clearly and effectively so that people can see what you are really like

reword

run over

to explain something again so that someone understands

set forth

formal to explain or describe something in a clear and detailed way, especially in writing

set/put someone straight

to tell someone the true facts about a situation after they have been told something that is not true

shine a/more/some light on something

to examine something more closely or explain it so that it becomes clearer

simplify

specify

to explain something in an exact and detailed way

spell out

informal to say or explain something very clearly because someone has not understood something

stake out

take something further

to develop something such as an opinion or theory

take through

to explain to someone in detail how something should be done, what something is about etc

talk through

to explain to someone in detail how something should be done

throw/shed/cast light on something

unpack

  • Explanations and explaining
  • To be, or to make something, difficult to understand
  • To give a reason or excuse for something
  • Reasons and excuses
  • Ways of explaining or clarifying

Free thesaurus definition of to make something easier to understand from the Macmillan English Dictionary – a free English dictionary online with thesaurus and with pronunciation from Macmillan Education.

We learn things throughout our entire lives, but we still don’t know everything because we forget a lot of information. Why does this happen?

Bright Side decided to learn why this happens and find a way to memorize information much more effectively. There is a universal formula that helps us to memorize things more easily that was made by Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist. And it works.

Why we forget

Your brain protects you from overloading with useless information. That’s why all new information is stored in the short-term memory, not in the long-term memory. If you don’t repeat it or use it, you forget it very quickly.

The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve shows that just one hour after learning we forget more than half of the learned information. One week later we remember only 20%.

How to remember everything

In order to keep the information in your head for a longer time, you need to try to put it into your long-term memory. Forced memorization is not very effective in this case because your brain can’t make sense of the information quickly and form strong associations. If you want to remember things for a long time, you need to extend the memorization period. It should be as long as a few days or even weeks.

You can practice interval memorization using self-made cards or special applications like Anki (Android, iOS) and SuperMemo (Android, iOS).

12 more memorizing tips

  • Try to understand what you learn. Things that you understand are memorized 9 times faster.
  • Learn the most necessary information. You need to set your priorities correctly.
  • Take this into consideration: things that are at the beginning and at the end are memorized the best (serial position effect).
  • Switch your attention from one topic to another. Remember that similar memories get mixed (interference theory) and become a “mess.”
  • Learn opposite things. For example, if you are learning a foreign language, memorize day and night. Opposites are easier to memorize.
  • Build your own “mind palace.” The idea is to associate certain things with a certain place. For example, if you are in your room, try to connect a thing you are learning to something in your room. Repeat it a few times. After that, try to recall what the room looks like in your memory, and repeat the things you learned this way.
  • Use “nail words.” The point of the technique is to nail one learned thing to another. So when you think of the nail, you automatically recall the other thing.
  • Associate new words with those you already know. If you are learning a language, you can memorize something new based on what you know.
  • Make up stories. If you need to memorize a lot of information in some particular order, try to put the pieces into a story. It’s important that the pieces are connected to each other with some kind of plot.
  • Use a tape recorder. Record the information you are learning, and listen to the recording a few times. This method works best for people who memorize audio information better.

Visualize. Use body language when learning. This will help you trigger your muscle memory.

Choose only the best materials. Don’t use outdated books and methods of learning. Things might have changed a lot since the books were written. Don’t waste your time on something that may turn out to be wrong.

How to train yourself to generate better ideas.

How to explain things better and make others understand your ideas easily

Jun 14, 2017 · 5 min read

It’s not hard to come up with a great idea.

What’s hard is to develop the habits that enable you to come up with great ideas.

The extent to which you incorporate these habits into your life ultimately determines the quality of your ideas.

It’s not magic, it’s commitment.

Here are nine habits to improve your ability to generate valuable ideas.

Idea generation is fueled by consumption, not creativity.

As Steve Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things.”

The more “things” you h ave to connect, the better your ideas will become. This means the quality and quantity of things you consume is a crucial factor in your ability to come up with a good idea.

The books, TV shows, articles, and movies you consume, the people you interact with, and the experiences you have all influence the ideas you generate.

If you consume junk, you can’t expect to create quality.

Exposing yourself to valuable ideas is only half the battle.

To get the most out of what you consume, it helps to regurgitate those ideas to others.

After reading an interesting article, talk to someone about it, write about it in a blog post, and/or condense its essence into a 140-character tweet. Doing so will help you get exponentially more benefit out of it.

Because the process of communicating an idea you’ve consumed in different formats — speaking, writing, and condensing it —forces you to absorb the idea in a deeper way.

You internalize it, learn more from it, are able to recall it, and better understand it. Each of those things make it more likely to unlock new ideas for you down the road.

One of the simplest ways to improve idea generation is to think about things you encounter in a macro sense.

No matter what you learn, you can zoom your perspective out to a macro level and discover ways it relates to other things you’re trying to brainstorm.

For example, on a micro level a Billy Joel concert may just be a fun way to spend a night.

But by expanding my viewpoint and considering what was happening on a macro level, I discovered it was actually packed with universal ideas about how to connect with an audience that had nothing to do with music.

Ideas come to you when THEY want to, not necessarily when YOU want them to.

That’s why training yourself to come up with better ideas isn’t just about preparing for your next brainstorm session. Recognize instead that ideas constantly come to you and to develop a habit of acknowledging and capturing them.

Learn to sense when an idea pops into your head and create a simple system to capture it in the moment.

Carry around a notebook, leave yourself a voicemail, send yourself an email, or figure out some other way to capture the idea before it slips away.

Just like it’s helpful to regurgitate the ideas of others, it’s also powerful to speak your own ideas out loud.

Express your idea to someone else and explain it spontaneously. Don’t read it from your notes, say it extemporaneously.

The process of communicating an idea — even if you don’t solicit feedback— helps you clarify and see it in a new way.

Something happens when you speak an idea that doesn’t happen when you write it— and vice versa.

Questions are powerful and too often we don’t ask enough of them.

In any conversation, the process of coming up with questions to ask and listening to people’s answers can lead to new ideas.

It gives you more information to work with and trains you to look for different angles and layers to things as opposed to taking them at face value.

Need some suggestions of what to ask? Read this.

A key to successful idea generation is to recognize there are infinite answers to every challenge.

To develop this mindset, seek out different ways people answer the same question.

Take productivity for example.

Who’s right? It doesn’t matter — that’s not the point.

The point is consuming conflicting ideas helps you see a bigger picture, expands your viewpoint, and triggers your own take on the subject.

The most valuable ideas are ones that solve problems for people.

So, rather than wait for a magical idea to hit you, think about what problems people have that you’d like to solve.

Inverting the process focuses your idea generation and increases the likelihood you come up with a good idea.

It’s the simplest thing you can do to instantly improve the value of your ideas.

Routines are helpful in habit-building, but when it comes to idea generation don’t be afraid to mix it up.

Rather than set a specific time to brainstorm, train yourself to do so at different times and in different locations.

When you set out to come up with an idea, you don’t have to be seated at your desk or in your office. Even science proves you can’t be creative without moving.

Ideas can just as easily come in the shower, on a walk, while driving, or while doing the dishes.

You can brainstorm when you wake up one day, at lunch the next, and right before bed the day after that.

A variety of environments often sparks a wider variety — and higher quality — of ideas.

For example, the broad idea for this post came to me while I walked and listened to music, most of the nine habits came to me while in the shower, and I wrote it while at my desk.

And it turned out to be a pretty valuable idea…right?

“Critical Thinking” may sound like an obnoxious buzzword from liberal arts schools, but it’s actually a useful skill. Critical thinking just means absorbing important information and using that to form a decision or opinion of your own—rather than just spouting off what you hear others say. This doesn’t always come naturally to us, but luckily, it’s something you can train yourself to do better.

Train Yourself to Pay Attention to the Right Details

One of the most important parts of thinking critically is learning what details matter. We’re exposed to so much information and so many different opinions every day that it’s really easy to get lost in the details. Subsequently, we need to train ourselves to learn which details matter and which don’t. Start by listening to your gut. If something doesn’t sound true, that’s your first warning sign. From there, you can start looking for other holes in an argument. Here are just a few ways to do that:

  • Think about who benefits from a statement: When you read about news or an opinion, it’s good to think about who, if anyone, benefits from the statement being made. If someone’s making an argument, there’s a good chance they benefit from it for some reason. As Business Insider points out , that’s not always a bad thing—sometimes a person’s motivations can make their opinion more valid—but it’s good to think about who might gain from an idea.
  • Question the source: With the internet, sources aren’t always immediately visible, so if something sounds off about a statement, track down where it came from initially before you form an opinion on it.
  • Look for obvious statements: A common trick in debates, reviews, and even personal essays is to couch a critical argument inside a series of obviously true statements. These sort of non sequiturs are easy to miss because by the time they come along you’ve already started agreeing with a statement. Here’s an extreme example: “So, now we know the sky is blue, that grass is green, that clouds are white, and that Apple makes the best computers.”

Arguments are misleading for a ton of reasons, and events like a presidential debate or science debate are a great place to train yourself to pay attention to particular details. The more you pay attention to these kinds of details the more automatic your critical thinking will become.

How to Prime Your BS Detection Skills Before the Presidential Debates

The presidential debates kick off tonight, and that means it’s time to power up your BS detection…

There are many benefits from sharing ideas at work. I thought it would be good to write this because I occasionally hear people talk about sharing creates stolen ideas and in return fighting over those stolen ideas. There are other thoughts on why sharing ideas at work shouldn’t be done but my focus on why it’s a good idea is based on this opposition.

I don’t know about you, but I want to work better. Not only do I want to work better, I want to get better at what I do every day. I have no desire to be the subject matter expert that holds my knowledge like a currency that people are trying to steal.

Here are some of the reasons I like to share ideas at work and make what I know and learn public knowledge for others to benefit from.

Get Better

Every time I share ideas with others and have a discussion with them I get better. There’s a natural exchange of ideas there and no single idea is original. By sharing ideas at work, I’m able to get better at my job while others also get better at their job.

When I collaborate and share, everyone is improving at the same time which then allows us all to reach higher levels of expertise even faster.

I want to get better at my job and have more skills to transfer to other jobs if necessary and sharing does just that.

Connecting Ideas In New Ways

One person can never have an idea that’s perfect. By sharing my ideas at work I am exposed to a side I may have never thought of before. New and better things come out of sharing ideas with others.

Think about a subject matter expert who doesn’t make their knowledge available to others unless forced and then it’s a one way road. They spew information as others record it.

This way of working never lets you connect your ideas with others and improve upon both ideas. There’s no way one brain can think of every angle, so everybody has to cooperate and work together to reach a common larger goal. The human race is a cooperative race and its allowed us to do great things.

Sitting on an idea like you own it has never helped anybody meet a greater goal.

We Give, We Receive

By sharing ideas and working together, everyone involved benefits and receives a bit back. Without making it known what we’re doing and thinking, it’s impossible for others to contribute to that knowledge.

The same goes for everyone else. If nobody makes it known what they’re working on and what they’re thinking, you won’t be able to contribute to their work!

We Connect

Modern work that isn’t easy to automate is all based off of connections. Connecting is uniquely human and can’t be automated or taken away. The connections we make come through sharing knowledge and what we’re working on, those connections in return allow us to do bigger things.

The more connections we make the more we can do in a shorter amount of time. Think about a project you’ve started and haven’t known any of the people you’re working on. That can be a challenge to get started figure out who is the best person for each job. If you have taken time to foster connections then it’s that much easier to find who you need to get things done.

We Listen, We Think

It’s impossible to continue to spew information and ever learn anything from anybody. When we take a moment, shut up, and listen, we can gain a lot more insights and build on our own knowledge much easier.

Sharing ideas at work seems like it’s the practice of just spewing information and never consuming, but it’s not. Part of sharing your ideas and making that exchange of knowledge is in the consumption of others ideas. As we read others ideas and what they’re working on, we have our own thoughts that we also share.

When we listen, we’re forced to think about our own ideas and fine tune those. If we listen, we’re better equipped for the discussion with others to develop better ideas together.

Diversity Innovates

The more minds that come together and from all different backgrounds, the better off we are able to come up with new and wonderful things.

If everybody agrees on a solution and there was never any debating, there’s a good chance that the solution won’t be as good as it could have been. Diversity of thought allows for different angles of each idea to be uncovered. Great things come out of this.

Ideas Come & Go

Ideas are never something you want to hold like you own them, they aren’t currency. Ideas are temporary and others will have the same ideas anyway. Connections are more important. Connecting with people and connecting of ideas. Connecting ideas is where innovation comes from, and connecting with people makes those innovation come to life.

Ideas aren’t important to hold on to, their only importance is in sharing them with others. Make yourself open and share with others what you’re doing and what your thoughts are. Once you start doing this you’ll find that the world begins opening up to you in new ways.

Expand beyond your organizations walls too. Never share only within your organization and never feel limited to the diversity it has to offer. The more you open up to the entire world and share with those across the globe, the more you’ll learn and grow.

Global connections introduces that diversity of ideas everyone needs. Ideas come and go but the diverse connections you can make globally cannot be replaced and will not fail you.

Finishing Up

The idea for this article came from a very unlikely place that I would have never thought. Being open to reading those ideas and not just blowing them off is a great way to improve yourself.

Amazing things happen when you inadvertently realize why you think what you think, and only others can help you reach those ideas.

Here’s my finishing statement to sum it all up, the comment I made that inspired this post:

When sharing happens, everyone is able to boost productivity at a faster pace. Also, more importance is put on problems solving and innovation and not ideas which are impossible to hold for long. If you hold ideas as a currency for employment then there will come a point when that currency is worthless. Value must be created and recreated in the form of the networks we create and maintain. That’s not something that can be stolen, lost, or diminished.

Education information for new and future teachers

“No mental tool honed by human intellect, curiosity and experience
can long resist being dulled by simple ignorance or stupidity.”

For New Teachers – Lesson Planning – Learning Objectives – Teaching Methods Classroom Management – Curriculum and Curriculum Issues – Study Skills
Other Education Resources – Thinking Skills – Jobs

WHAT IT MEANS TO UNDERSTAND SOMETHING

(a short and sweet explanation) – Part 1

Dr. Bob Kizlik

We are constantly bombarded with others wanting us to “understand” one thing or another, but that sort of begs the question, doesn’t it? We are still left with the fundamental question, “what does it mean to understand something?” Teachers almost universally seek to have their students learn and understand the subject matter they are teaching. There is nothing wrong with this intent, but again, it begs the question.

Throughout the Internet, on most sites dealing with education, as well as on the ADPRIMA site, the word “understand” is used with near reckless abandon. Read almost any set of educational goals, and you are sure to find this word. There is no dearth of use of this term; it is ubiquitous. But popularity of the word belies a fundamental problem, and that problem is at the core of efforts to develop curricula and concomitant vocabulary that actually provide a means to reach a set of agreed-upon goals. Simply put, we use the word “understand” in many instances without any clear idea of what it means to understand something. Curriculum guides, course syllabi and many other education references and documents use understand in various, often confusing and conflicting ways.

In my own work, I strive to clarify my instructional and curricular intentions from the first day. I have no problem using the word understand in my courses, even when the subject matter is very specific. Let me explain.

As one who teaches young men and women who seek to become teachers, I use understand one way or another in every class I teach. I even require that my students to begin their lesson plans with the phrase “I want my students to understand…”

At the core of this approach are some assumptions about what words and ideas mean in the first place. In every class I teach, whether it is undergraduate, graduate, or distance learning, there is always a component that deals with what it means to understand or “know about” something, and why teachers must be able to articulate why specificity is important in describing any learning goal. Reasons are important! As part of the class presentation on how to write behavioral objectives or learning objectives that actually communicate learning outcomes in a clear and unambiguous way, I ask each student to complete these two sentences:

1. “I know about or understand”_______________________

2. “I know how to”_________________________________

The students are told that these understanding and skills can be about anything, and not necessarily social studies, which is what I teach. Usually, students are comfortable expressing what they understand and know how to do when the context for doing so is not threatening. When they have finished writing the completions to the sentences, there is period when I ask each student to tell the class what it is they understand and know how to do. During the process, I question them about how they came to understand whatever they wrote and how they learned the skill they indicated. It is an interesting exercise.

Following that, I give an assignment based on our discussion. The assignment is to write a description of what a person would have to DO in order for the student to make an inference that the person actually understood what the student said he or she understood. It makes sense. Another way of saying this is suppose someone came up to you and said, “I understand what you said you understand. ” What would this person have to DO to convince you?

This exercise is a beginning to the process of learning to write objectives that actually communicate. Since about 95% of social studies is about understanding content and concepts, it is reasonable to begin with learning how to write objectives that deal with understanding. What better content to begin with than what a student says he or she understands?

The acid test for understanding is rather simple; if a person says he or she understands something, then the person should be able to explain to others what it is that is understood. It come down to the premise that if you can’t explain what you know, then chances are you don’t know it. But there are functions of knowledge that go beyond explanation. In addition, as has been stated many times on the ADPRIMA site, “anything not understood in more than one way is not understood at all.” Read the next page and you will see what I mean.

“Anything not understood in more than one way is not understood at all.”

A thought-provoking thriller novel I wrote for the Kindle: The Bucci Strain: Imprint

Tell your listeners why it’s important and how it affects them.

Have you ever told a story about a personal encounter and found that people got lost or started checking their phones? It feels crummy, right?

You might be left wondering what you did wrong. Don’t worry, you’re not the only person to experience this. I’ve had the same thing happen to me when I tell a story, and it sucks.

I’m an introvert. I’ve never been great at conveying my thoughts and feelings to others. Most of my thoughts live and die in my own head, and usually, I’m okay with that. Like many introverts, I don’t feel the need to constantly verbalize my ideas and experiences to others.

However, my preference for quiet does not mean I have nothing to say at all. There are times when I want to be heard as well, and I bet you do, too.

There have been many times when I’ve tried telling a story about something funny that happened to me only to have it not quite land right for the listener. Other times, I’ve wanted to share something amazing I experienced, read, or watched, but after babbling a bit, I see that my friends don’t share my enthusiasm.

And it’s especially soul-crushing when they don’t even pay attention or change the topic entirely. Feeling dismissed is the worst.

You Can Become a Better Storyteller

Recently, while browsing Reddit, I came across a post by an introvert who said he felt incapable of telling engaging stories. I came to the conclusion that I needed to get better at telling stories, too, because I was failing to engage my listeners.

It’s easy to tell a story badly. You’ve probably been on the other end of bad storytelling and have gotten bored.

Honestly, it takes a lot of practice to master the art of storytelling. A lifetime for some, but shorter for others. What it takes is a willingness to improve and to learn from your mistakes. So, here are four things I’ve learned that might help you, too.

How to Tell Better Stories: Tips for Introverts

1. Grab their attention.

Wanting to tell the whole story is great. But if you tell a story chronologically and take the time to explain it in detail with lots of backstory, your audience will zone out by the time you get to the good part.

Before you start telling a story, tell your listeners why it’s important. You must attract their interest. But don’t use a word like “interesting” when describing your story — it’s an overused word that’s lost all of its allure.

Instead, use bold adjectives to introduce your story. “Let me tell you about the weird way I met my girlfriend” sounds more intriguing than “Let me tell you about how I met my girlfriend.” Or, if you had a compelling encounter with someone, don’t say, “I had an interesting encounter today.” Instead, try, “You won’t believe who I met today.”

Once you have their interest, you’ll have to keep up the momentum — which brings me to my next point.

2. Set the mood.

You are the story’s narrator. Your job is to set the mood for which the story takes place. The tone of your storytelling can greatly affect the listening experience. Don’t ramble on in a monotonous voice.

Occasionally make eye contact with your listeners. Yes, as an introvert, I feel awkward doing so, but we can’t deny that some of our more engaging conversations have involved some form of eye contact.

Use hand gestures. It can help with the flow of the story and give life to the characters and their actions. Hand gestures give a physical sense of momentum to your storytelling.

Project your voice, even if it feels a bit unnatural to you. I tend to speak quietly, so when I started learning to tell better stories, I told myself to talk a little louder than my comfort zone. At first, it seemed to loud to me, but it was the right volume for everyone else.

You might even try changing voices to match the personalities of the various characters in your story. The depth you provide to your characters will engage your listener.

Doing all of this helps the audience feel what you felt.

And speaking of emotions, make sure to include your own. Captivating stories don’t just share what happened and when — they also reveal how you felt, what motivated you, what drove you on, etc. The more emotion you can include in your story, the better, although it doesn’t have to be complicated. Try something as simple as:

  • “I was panicking.”
  • “I couldn’t believe it!”
  • “The news was devastating.”

If you create an emotional connection with your listeners, they’ll be hanging on your every word.

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3. Let them imagine.

Telling a story through speech requires your audience to imagine it. So let them participate and visualize. You might try asking what they think happened before actually telling them.

Don’t ask simple yes or no questions. Ask them questions that make them guess what happened — but make sure they’re not too open-ended, or your story will lose momentum.

Don’t describe every little detail. Instead, give them the scenario and let them imagine the rest.

For example, you might say, “I met Arnold Schwarzenegger at the gym the other day. Guess what he said to me?” Your audience will imagine scenarios and engage with your storytelling to find out what happened.

4. Use casual, everyday words.

Have you ever been confused by wordy jargon? I bet you had a hard time understanding some parts of the conversation because of it.

When you tell a story, use layman’s terms. The average person’s reading level is about 7th or 8th grade. If your audience doesn’t understand what you’re saying, you immediately lose their interest.

If you’re an astrophysicist, don’t use scientific mumbo-jumbo to explain the latest astronomical discovery to a crowd of people at a cocktail party. Simply tell them why it’s important and how it affects them. Make it relatable and relevant to them. Remember, everyone wants to hear about how something affects their favorite person: themselves.

Your storytelling skills can’t level up without practice. But when you engage and stay relevant to your audience, storytelling can become the kind of meaningful experience you crave as an introvert.