Eight to Late

Sensemaking and Analytics for Organizations

Show, don’t tell

with 3 comments

My five year old son looked out through our living room window this morning and said, “Dad, I can’t write on the window today.”

“Hmm…,” I said, not really listening. I continued with my breakfast, looking down at the article I was reading.

He repeated, “I can’t write on the window.” Then added, “I did yesterday but I can’t today.”  …And shortly after came the inevitable, “Why?”

I looked up and realised what he was talking about: there was no condensation on the window. Yesterday  morning our windows had a thin veil of condensation on which he could write with his finger. But it was less humid today, so the panes were clear. There would be no writing today. Quite naturally, he wanted to know why.

I launched into a long-winded explanation about water vapour, temperature and condensation. He listened to me politely, but (obviously) didn’t really understand what I was going on about.

I stopped. There had to be a better way to explain this to a five year old.

I got up and went to the kitchen. “Let me show you something,” I said. The little fellow followed, with a somewhat dubious look on his face. I had lost credibility and he wasn’t about to cut me any slack.

I filled the kettle with some water and turned it on.

 “Wait and watch,” I said, unfolding a step ladder so he could have a good look-see at what was happening.

He clambered on and watched as I held up a glass near the spout. I had his attention now.  “Tell me when  you see something,”  I said.

“I see it now, I see it now,” he said, pointing excitedly at a sheen of condensation on the glass. “I can write on the glass!”

I launched into another explanation of water vapour, humidity and condensation. But this time I could see that I was getting through. He listened, and asked questions which I answered as best I could. It was great!

I was late for work this morning, but it was worth it.  I’d  been given a refresher course on a vital aspect of communication: show, don’t tell.

Written by K

May 14, 2008 at 7:18 pm

Posted in Communication

3 Responses

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  1. I started reading this post; read through to the next & now I’m hooked. Good stuff



    May 15, 2008 at 5:18 am

  2. Thank you! …and do visit again.





    May 15, 2008 at 8:52 am

  3. […] article that drew my attention today is “Show, don’t tell“: an excellent read about how showing things the concrete way is better than explaining them […]


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