Recently I was exposed to a process that, unbeknownst to me, I had been performing for a long while. In fact, I didn’t even know there was a name for it. Some smart people, probably funded by a big government grant, did some research on what they call “tapping.”

The short of the experiment is this: In 1990, a Ph.D. candidate named Elizabeth Newton designed a game in which subjects had one of two rolls: “tappers” or “listeners.” Tappers received a list of 25 well-known songs, like “Happy Birthday” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Each tapper was asked to pick a song and tap out the rhythm to a listener (by knocking on a table). The listener’s job was to guess the song based on the tappers tapping. Sounds easy, right?

The listener’s job in this test was challenging. During the course of the experiment, 120 songs were tapped out. Listeners guessed only 3 songs correctly or just a measly 2.5% success rate.

No surprise right? But what made this research worth recognition was the next point. Before the listeners guessed the name of the song, the tappers were asked to predict the listeners probability of guessing the song correctly. Overall, the tappers predicted the probability of listeners getting the right answer at 50%. Yes, you read that correctly. The tappers thought that the listener would guess their song right half the time; while in reality, the tappers communicated successfully only 1 in 40 times, but they thought they were communicating successfully 1 in 2 times.

Researchers call this “The Curse of Knowledge.” When a tapper taps, they hear the song in their head… meanwhile the listener hears someone knocking on a table. In the end, the tappers were frustrated at how hard the listeners were trying to guess the songs, to the extent the tappers thought the listeners where stupid for not guessing the song correctly. It’s hard to be a tapper, to have the knowledge and interact with people who aren’t getting it.

So the questions you have to ask yourself:

  1. Are you or your salespeople “tapping” to your clients?
  2. In your sales presentations, do you talk while your prospect just sits and nods?
  3. Do you think your prospect would tell you if they didn’t understand what you were saying or just not purchase from you?
  4. Is the content on your website just a lot of corporate speak that doesn’t clearly articulate your value?
  5. Could that explain why your website doesn’t convert traffic well?

Next time you sit with someone just remember… the knowledge in your head might be harder for others to comprehend than you think.