I hear two kinds of complaints about my communication style from people – sometimes even from the same person.

The first is:

You always define your terms, as if people don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s condescending; it makes people feel put down.

(I admit, I always think of Harry Potter* when I hear that.)

The second is:

You always just refer to things without explaining them, like you just expect people to know what you’re talking about. It makes people feel stupid.

Double message?

I don’t think so. My interpretation of these criticisms, taken together, is that my critics want me to “get it right,” to have good intuitions about what they do and don’t already know.

They’re not exactly saying “know the audience.” They’re saying “know us.”

[*] That is:

theater interior