Simple first, nuance later

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A simple idea for how to explain nuanced concepts to a listener. This might be regarded as obvious to some, but I found it worth writing down.

When explaining concepts to a new audience:

  • First avoid all nuance and make sure that the listener thinks he/she has a clear understanding of the topic.
    • If there is any chance that the listener will stop listening: Make it clear it is simplified for the purpose of explanation. Otherwise the listener might walk away with an overly simple understanding.
  • Then slowly introduce a little nuance, showing the flaws in the simplification.
  • If necessary, go full-on “this is hard” by showing that the previously introduced nuance wasn’t enough. You may optionally try to show how any simple explanation not accounting for the various nuances is likely to be wrong.