Yesterday, I spent 20 minutes speaking to Dr. Alastrue, a general surgeon in the Teknon medical clinic. I need to have an operation – due to too much exercise (did I mention the triathlon in June).
I am currently interested in the challenges of experts communicating well to non-experts. In the case of me speaking with Dr Alastrue with his 30 years experience as a practicing medical professional, it was a true case of an expert (him) communicating to a non-expert (me).
He sat me down and asked some basic questions. He asked me to explain why I had come to see him. He explained that he would do some tests. He explained why. He explained what he found. He explained what it meant. He used his hands to demonstrate a simple model of what is happening. He looked at me while he spoke and listened to me when I spoke.
I asked him what makes a great surgeon. He told me “25% great technique, 25% great problem solving skills and 50% being a human being.” The great surgeons are able to empathise with the fellow human beings that are their patients and the family and friends of their patients.
I believe that a huge challenge of experts communicating to non-experts is that what is interesting to the expert is way over the head of the non-expert; what is interesting and relevant to the non-expert is painfully obvious and boring to the expert. However, there is nothing more important that seeking to be a human being over and above seeking to be a “doctor” or “expert” or “leader” or “professor”.