Opinion: Do the math


Our daily lives are overflowing with data. Information abounds. Yet, in a somewhat alarming development, most of us are more confused than ever. How do we make sense of the competing, incongruent and often intentionally open-ended assertions in which modern society, thus each of us, finds itself steeped? How do those “in-the-know” arrive at their assumptions? How do they use the information to find their supposed iron-clad assertion of outcome?

The challenge here is that most talking heads foist upon the unsuspecting and willing public equations of “how to fix the world” with too many unknown variables. Every eighth-grade math student will tell you that such cannot be resolved. First, one must know which elements are required, then conform to a definition for each, and finally determine a specific outcome that we might hope to reach if we solve the equation. 

For others to understand our thinking, one must begin from a place that assumes the position of the listener, not the speaker. If the listener does not have enough information, wouldn’t it require that the speaker include it in the originating message? To follow the analogy, one should identify all the variables and then, in time, solve each before turning in the assignment.

Understandably, some don’t want to do the homework. They push the problem-solving responsibility off to the reader. Open-ended equations invite further interrogatory and leave too much to assumption. If we were to review our messages in advance of sending them from the perspective of the reader, how much could we improve our communication? And, if we spent a bit more time on designing the equation before attempting to solve it, would we get to better outcomes?

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