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To intellectual to be understood.?

(68 Posts)
Bridgeit Sun 11-Feb-18 13:50:28

After watching Nicky Campbell’s ‘The Big Questions’ this morning,I couldn’t help wondering if one can be too intellectual to be understood .
There was one obviously intelligent lady speaking but she didn’t get her points across too well .It was apparent that she was passionate & very erudite, and yet her opinions & points were almost unfathomable (not just to myself, ) but also to other speakers & the audience who also appeared unable to grasp her meaning. The topic seemed to be entirely lost in her intellect .

Nelliemoser Sun 11-Feb-18 14:07:22

It happens and if the speaker does not make it intelligible to their audience they have failed in their task.

FarNorth Sun 11-Feb-18 14:14:12

Simply being intellectual shouldn't make one difficult to understand.
The speaker needs to give thought to making themself understood.
That said, if the speaker is a member of the public on a TV show, nervousness caused by the situation might scramble their thoughts.

Greyduster Sun 11-Feb-18 14:16:47

In Bill Bryson’s book ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ he cites, in the 1790s when geological study was in its infancy, a man named James Hutton who was brilliant but whose language was virtually unfathomable to his peers. One of his biographers said of him “It was beyond him to set down his notions in a form that anyone could understand, being almost entirely innocent of rhetorical accomplishments.”

GracesGranMK2 Sun 11-Feb-18 14:36:53

To believe that would be total inverted snobbery. Anyone can be more or less able to explain their point of view. Your level of intellectual capability does not necessarily mean your communication skills are going to be particularly good - for all manner of reasons.

Day6 Sun 11-Feb-18 14:55:52

Yes, I believe sometimes people can over-assess a situation or articulate to a degree that makes understanding difficult.

I have been in meetings with people who do this and I want to scream "Be more concise!" or "Get to the point!" To witter on, in depth, and so lose your audience indicates a lack awareness.

Day6 Sun 11-Feb-18 14:57:59

a lack of awareness.

Luckygirl Sun 11-Feb-18 15:34:45

The point of being a speaker at a meeting is first and foremost to communicate. She could not really be classified as "intellectual" if she has not grasped that basic principle.

Grandma70s Sun 11-Feb-18 16:12:45

I sometimes watch this programme, but didn't this morning. I may try it on iPlayer, because I feel curious now. The standard of ‘debate’ is usually very low. I agree with those of you who say that being unintelligible to your audience is not a sign of high intellect, though I suppose it is difficult with a mixed ability audience like this one.

It made me think of someone I know who is actually not brilliantly intelligent at all, but uses a lot of words and long, complex sentence structures to make some of her more gullible listeners think she is. Drives me mad.

GracesGranMK2 Mon 12-Feb-18 11:16:27

She could not really be classified as "intellectual" if she has not grasped that basic principle.

Well thank heavens some of our greatest brains have not been judged by your standards LG.

JackyB Mon 12-Feb-18 11:50:27

Surely one of the basic rules of rhetoric is to adapt your language to suit the audience. And someone who is highly intelligent should have the vocabulary and sense to know how to do this.

(Can't watch the programme as the i player is blocked for us who live abroad)

GracesGranMK2 Mon 12-Feb-18 12:03:27

JackyB, why? Someone could be best in the world at their subject; far in excess in knowledge of anyone else. Why would that make them a teacher or communicator. Wonderful if they are but not a given.

The majority of this thread sounds like pure inverted snobbery to me. Very much of the - I don't want someone who happens to be intelligent and learned to be recognise for that so I will find some little thing to say they can't be that.

I would certainly be happy to have the person who, for instance, find cures to dreadful diseases to go on doing that and be lauded for their intelligence and learning (intellect) than decide they weren't good enough because I, with my level of learning and intelligence, could not understand them.

Luckygirl Mon 12-Feb-18 12:19:08

I have been to a number of meetings about PD with my OH. One was totally brilliant. The speaker was at thevery top of his field and had a brain like a planet. He was speaking to mainly non-scientists (apart from OH) and PD sufferers and he succeeded in explaining the latest research in a way that was detailed and accurate and yet entirely comprehensible to the likes of me. It was hugely impressive and very interesting.

He managed to convey some very complex issues in a way that was not patronising and did not compromise on detail, but was still comprehensible. Spot on!

sunseeker Mon 12-Feb-18 12:23:46

I attended a meeting once where one of the speakers, highly intelligent, talked for about 10 minutes baffling everyone - his colleague who was also speaking, stepped up and said "and for those who don't speak gobble de gook ..." and went on to explain in just a couple of minutes. I sometimes think people will go into long convoluted explanations as a way of proving to everyone how clever they are

Elegran Mon 12-Feb-18 12:25:43

It depends what the speaker is setting out to do. If their lecture is to people who have a background in the subject and who have enough knowledge of it beforehand to understand the jargon and follow the train of thought from one point to another, then more than half the work of understanding can be done by the audience and the speaker doesn't need very good communication skills.

If it is a talk to a general audience containing a few people with previous knowledge, and a lot with only a smattering, then it has to be carefully constructed so as to explain key basic points as they occur, to move smoothly from the simple and obvious to more complex points, and to avoid specialised jargon. It sounds as though the lady on "The Big Questions" was more used to addressing an audience familiar with the subject - or perhaps not used to addressing an audience at all.

GracesGranMK2 Mon 12-Feb-18 13:08:49

Elegran you have come closest to my thinking on this.

I certainly do not agree that "people will go into long convoluted explanations as a way of proving to everyone how clever they are" as sunseeker says and think that sort of opinion says more about the poster than the speaker she refers to. It may happen very occasionally but I would guess that more often than not the people concerned are possibly used to talking about their subject to others who know a great deal about it and are enthusiastic to share their knowledge and end up over explaining at a level the audience (containing sunseeker in this instance), does not need or understand. Lot's of people over explain about hobbies, holidays and their area of expertise. Intellect does not come into it.

The question in the OP is comparing apples and pears. Those who are highly intellectual have high levels of learning and intelligence - that's what it means. Those who can be easily understood have a skill - they are good at communicating. Having one does not imply you will have or not have the other they are not linked in any way. Some highly intellectual people do have good communication skills some don't. Being highly intellectual is not the decider of the ability to learn the skill of communicating. Some with good communication skills are highly intelligent and learned, moderately intelligent and learned or not very intelligent or learned. You could be a sales person with little education but using your communication skills, a politician who knows nothing but says it well. The premise of the OP simply does not hold true. It's like saying people should be able to teach simply because they have an in depth knowledge of their subject and we have all met those who prove that is not true.

OldMeg Mon 12-Feb-18 13:22:05

Some people are good st communicating others are not. It’s as simple as that. Nothing to do with intelligence.

sunseeker Mon 12-Feb-18 13:26:12

GG the fact the the speakers colleague found it necessary to explain to an educated and intelligent audience does, I think, prove my point. With respect, you don't know me or my educational or intelligence level.

MissAdventure Mon 12-Feb-18 13:43:47

Its much like the 'plain English' campaign providing training for companies and so on.
No point trying to make a valid point if nobody understands it.

Grandma70s Mon 12-Feb-18 14:26:17

Oh dear. I’ve just watched the programme, which certainly tried my patience. However, I have no idea which person the OP means. The format of this programme, where participants are allowed to talk over each other and the noise level is far too high, makes rational debate impossible. It was the usual ill-disciplined rabble.

grannyactivist Mon 12-Feb-18 14:54:42

We once had a church minister who had a PhD and a brain the size of a planet, but who found it very hard to gauge the capacity of his congregation to understand his sermons. We eventually had an agreement to meet weekly so that I could 'translate' his thoughts into more understandable terms and that solved the problem. Interestingly his wife was just the opposite, a very simple soul who left school with no qualifications to speak of and who, on her own admission, found it almost impossible to have a conversation with him on anything other than a domestic topic. Something worked between them though - they had four children!

MissAdventure Mon 12-Feb-18 14:56:47

The language of love, I expect. smile

GracesGranMK2 Mon 12-Feb-18 15:43:01

Some people are good st communicating others are not. It’s as simple as that. Nothing to do with intelligence.

And some, like me, take three paragraphs to say just that OldMeg grin usually because I want to explain it all. I almost inevitably I over explain, not to prove I'm clever but to share a bit of knowledge.

GG the fact the the speakers colleague found it necessary to explain to an educated and intelligent audience does, I think, prove my point. With respect, you don't know me or my educational or intelligence level.

I am not interested in your education or your intelligence to be honest sunseeker - just your logic and the above is not logical. The reason the speakers colleague had to explain was because the speaker was not a good communicator - a skill some have and others never learn. There is nothing, absolutely nothing that proves the point that high levels of intellect stop people being good communicators! Some of the cleverest people are brilliant communicators. The colleague must have had a reasonable level of intelligence and knowledge (intellect) to have been able to explain.

OldMeg Mon 12-Feb-18 19:05:05

GG2 just reading your post above where you quoted me, and I’m looking down at my dog who is communicating quite clearly that I’ve forgotten to feed him 🤣🐾🐾🤣

GracesGranMK2 Mon 12-Feb-18 19:12:35

OldMed [grin}