Missed Understanding


There are two basic ways to respond when someone expresses frustration about not understanding a tool or technique that we do.

The first is to blame them.

I mean, you understand it. It’s not that hard. They should be able to figure it out too. Maybe they don’t want to put in the work. Or they’re slow on the uptake. It would be great if they would put a little time and effort into actually understanding it instead of complaining.

The other response is to consider it as feedback.

Is there documentation or other information that is unclear or misleading? Does the documentation assume a certain level of pre-existing knowledge? Is there something that you could communicate differently to make it click for them?

Maybe their context isn’t the same as you—there could be situations where maybe this tool or technique doesn’t make sense. Or perhaps there are downsides you haven’t considered. It would be great to take some time to understand better where they’re coming from.

Blaming them is easy. It’s an emotional response that lets you off the hook for having to put in any work.

Taking the time to understand their perspective is harder. It requires you to put any initial emotional response aside and think critically about what is different for them.

It takes work to think critically about something and how it is being presented. It takes work to take the time to understand why someone else may not find it particularly intuitive or useful.

Blaming them is a missed opportunity. Critically evaluating why they feel the way they do is how you make progress.

It’s how you become more informed about the tools you use every day.

It’s how you make better decisions about what to use, and when.

It’s how you make tools more robust, and it’s how you make technology more accessible and approachable.