September 20, 2019 ~ 2 min read

First Tip! Ask when you don't understand.

Weekly TipsSpeaking

This is the very first communication tip I'm going to share, so I feel a little pressure to make it a good one.

But I also want to set the stage that these may not all be profound, they just all should make you think about something that will improve your communication skills.

So I'm going to just share a short story from a meeting I was at last night. We were hearing a presentation from a speaker, and I was having a lot of trouble understanding what she was saying. She was using a lot of acronyms I didn't know, and I felt like I was missing a lot of context.

There was a point where she was asking us to respond to something, and I didn't know what to say. And looking around, it didn't seem like anyone else was going to interact either.

So I asked her, straight up: "Hey, I may be alone in this, but I feel kinda lost. Can you step back and explain what some of these acronyms are and give some more context for what you're trying to tell us?"

It was super uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable. And she was uncomfortable. But she did it. She explained some context, and the acronyms. It wasn't a perfect explanation, but it was enough.

From there forward, we as a group had a much more engaged conversation and back-and-forth, turning what had felt like a potential flop of a presentation into a great discussion.

So what's the lesson? Ask questions if you don't understand!

It feels super uncomfortable, but it almost always helps, and in any sort of group setting there's going to be other people with your same question who are just afraid to ask.

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Kevin Ball

Hi, I'm Kevin Ball (alias KBall). I'm a software engineer turned trainer and coach focused on communication and leadership skills. You can follow me on Twitter, or check out my software-focused work at