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What Seems Obvious to You Could Help Someone Else

Friends

“We are not what we know but what we are willing to learn.~Mary Catherine Bateson

Despite being a professional blogger, I am not particularly adept at technology.

I don’t have a data plan on my phone. I don’t have an iTunes account. I have no idea how people do that thing where they connect their computer to the TV. What is this witchery?!

But because of my age and my profession, people frequently assume that I’m a computer genius. They are sadly mistaken. One day, my significantly-more-tech-savvy BFF was looking over my shoulder as I checked email. She glanced at my screen and said off-handedly:

“You know you can just click on that little arrow to read the next email, right? You don’t have to keep going back to your inbox.”

Whhhhaaaaat?! My email-reading life = changed. Productivity = upped. With an afterthought of a comment, my friend significantly improved my work life.

And I’m sure she nearly didn’t tell me because she thought her suggestion was too obvious.

We’re all guilty of this, right? Discounting our knowledge because it has become so ingrained in our everyday life that we assume everybody else knows that thing or has that skill set.

Or we worry that we’ll offend someone by telling them something that seems so incredibly, painfully obvious.

But here’s the thing: what’s obvious to you is helpful to me. What’s old news to me might be fresh and mind-blowing to you.

And really, we can apply this to just about every arena of life.

It’s obvious (to me) that my friend is amazing/intelligent/double-take good looking. But after a series of terrible dates, maybe she needs reminding.

It’s obvious (to me) that I should @mention people on Twitter when I write about them on my blog. But maybe my clients don’t know that.

It’s obvious (to me) that when I travel, I should use packing cubes and Airbnb.com. But if you’re not an experienced traveler, you probably have no idea that your suitcase could be revolutionized by some zippered cubes.

It’s obvious (to me) that I should buy my favorite jeans and tank tops in pairs when they go on sale. But if you’ve never experienced the wonder of Old Navy Rock Star jeans, maybe you don’t know.

It’s obvious (to me) that I should end blog posts with questions to engage my readers and create a sense of community. You haven’t been blogging for five years? It’s not your fault you don’t know.

For ages, I didn’t share these obvious insights with anyone. It seemed insulting to state what (to me) seemed readily apparent! 

But after the fateful day of Email Management Epiphanies I’ve changed my tune.

If you phrase it correctly, you won’t offend anybody, even if you’re telling them something they already know.

Here are a few phrases you can use to point out (what you believe to be) obvious:

“You already know about _________, right?”

“I’m sure this is old news to you, but ___________”

“You probably already know this but I always like to err on the side of providing too much information.”

“Have you tried_______________?”

And even if these things are obvious? Maybe your friend just needs reminding. Or maybe your comment will be the gentle push they need to make see things differently.

“You already know about that website that coordinates ads for blogs, right?”
Yes. And I’ve been putting off signing up and dealing with HTML editing. But I should really join.

“I’m sure this is old news to you but Hipmunk.com is a great airfare search website.”
Yup. I was sort of confused by the interface but if you think it’s good, I’ll give it another try.

“Have you tried giving up coffee?”
Ugh. No. But I know I need to and I know it’ll help me sleep better.

And you know what? There are certain obvious things that can never, ever be  said too frequently.

Things like:

“You’re so insanely clever.”
“Gosh, you’re good at that!”
“You throw great parties!”
“You really have a gift for this.”
“That color looks great on you!”
“You’re so good at handling tough situations.”

Just because you think a solution is obvious, doesn’t mean it is. Just because you think someone’s talents are self-evident, doesn’t mean they are. Just because you think a best-practice is common sense, doesn’t mean it is.

So go ahead. State the obvious. We’ll all be grateful.

Avatar of Sarah Von Bargen

About Sarah Von Bargen

Sarah Von Bargen is a writer, blogger, traveler, and internet awesome-i-fier. Her blog Yes and Yes reaches 11,000+ people every day, which she finds just as shocking as you do. You can follow her adventures on Twitter and Facebook.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • http://selfstairway.com/ Vincent Nguyen

    This is something that took me years to realize: we don’t all see “it.”

  • http://juliekesti.com/ Julie Kesti

    this is great and so spot on for me this week. i’ve been the “newbie” expat in china for a while now, and this week met a group of people who’ve just arrived, and they see me as an expert, which is laughable to me–but–it’s the circle of life! sharing is cool. :-)

    thanks for this perspective, sarah! i love the image of your friend glancing over your shoulder.

  • Eric Dicesare

    The hard part is determining which people don’t want to here the obvious.

  • Sarah

    Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your wisdom and learning process! This post has come at a perfect time for me … of course!

  • Guest

    I think that your perspective is deep, its just well thought
    out and really fantastic to see someone who knows how to put these thoughts
    down so well.

  • http://wwww.minecraftchannel.net/ Minecraft

    Very useful and supportive article. I wish I can do all of
    that in a short period of time.

  • David Goettsch

    This is such a simple little concept that we often overlook. I think about not saying things all of the time not to offend someone, but I usually realize it can’t hurt to try to help someone. Cool post, thanks for sharing :)

    Dave @personalgrowthproject

  • Kerry

    This is really profound. I do often hold my tongue because I think that surely, they must already be aware. Thanks for posting!