Reminder: What’s Easy + Obvious To You Isn’t Easy + Obvious To Everyone

Not sure if the advice you're going to share is "too basic"? Worried that you're pointing out the obvious? You're probably not! Something that's easy for you isn't necessarily easy for everyone.

I’m co-working with my best friend on a sunny Tuesday, drinking coffee on her couch, and sifting through my inbox.

She walks behind me on her way to the kitchen and glances at my screen. “You know you can just click on that little arrow to read the next email, right?” she says as she rinses out her mug. “You don’t have to keep going back to your inbox.”

What now? My email-reading life = changed. Productivity = upped. With an afterthought of a comment, my friend significantly improved my work life.

And I’m sure she nearly didn’t tell me because she thought her suggestion was too obvious.

We’re all guilty of this, right? Discounting our knowledge because it has become so ingrained in our everyday life that we assume everybody else knows that thing or has that skill set.

Or we worry that we’ll offend someone by telling them something that seems so incredibly, painfully obvious.

Truly, I almost didn’t create Make It Stick Habit School because I was worried the things I was teaching were “too obvious.” (Uhhh, students regularly tell me that it changed their life, so clearly I was wrong.)

What’s obvious to you could be helpful to me. What’s old news to me might be fresh and mind-blowing to you. Share on X

We can apply this to just about every arena of life.

It’s obvious (to me) that my friend is amazing/intelligent/double-take good looking. But after a series of terrible dates, maybe she needs reminding.

It’s obvious (to me) that I should tag people and companies on Facebook when I write about them on my blog. But maybe my clients don’t know that.

It’s obvious (to me) that when I travel, I should use packing cubes and Airbnb. But if you’re not an experienced traveler, you probably have no idea that your suitcase could be revolutionized by some zippered cubes.

It’s obvious (to me) that I should buy my favorite jeans and tank tops in pairs when they go on sale. But if you’ve never experienced the wonder of Old Navy Rockstar jeans, maybe you don’t know.

It’s obvious (to me) that having more discretionary income starts with buying fewer things that don’t bring you joy. But maybe you’ve never considered how your values, your happiness, and your spending are connected.

For ages, I didn’t share these obvious insights with anyone. It seemed insulting to state what (to me) seemed readily apparent!

But after the fateful day of Email Management Epiphanies I’ve changed my tune.

If you phrase it correctly, you won’t offend anybody, even if you’re telling them something they already know.

Here are a few phrases you can use to point out (what you believe to be) obvious:

“You already know about _________, right?”

“I’m sure this is old news to you, but ___________”

“You probably already know this but I always like to err on the side of providing too much information.”

“Have you tried_______________?”

And even if these things are obvious? Maybe your friend just needs reminding. Or maybe your comment will be the gentle push they need to make see things differently.

“You already know about that website that coordinates ads for blogs, right?”
Yes. And I’ve been putting off signing up and dealing with HTML editing. But I should really join.

“I’m sure this is old news to you but is a great airfare search website.”
Yup. I was sort of confused by the interface but if you think it’s good, I’ll give it another try.

“Have you tried giving up coffee?”
Ugh. No. But I know I need to and I know it’ll help me sleep better.

And you know what? There are certain obvious things that can never, ever be  said too frequently.

Things like:

“You’re so insanely clever.”
“Gosh, you’re good at that!”
“You throw great parties!”
“You really have a gift for this.”
“That color looks great on you!”
“You’re so good at handling tough situations.”

Just because you think a solution is obvious, doesn’t mean it's obvious to EVERYONE. Share on X Just because you think someone’s talents are self-evident, doesn’t mean they are. Just because you think a best-practice is common sense, doesn’t mean it is.

So go ahead. State the obvious. We’ll all be grateful.

I want to hear from you! What have you learned from people’s offhand comments? What knowledge of your own do you take for granted? Tell us in the comments so we can learn from you!

P.S. Things we don’t say enough (and when to say them) 

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

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  1. Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    I am so guilty of this! Sometimes I feel so impatient when others aren’t as snappy or as quick as me on certain things – but it’s so important to remember that we all have our strengths.

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  2. Expat n00b

    Oh my god yes. I moved abroad last year and there are SO MANY THINGS that seem so obvious to natives that they don’t even consider mentioning it. In fact just today I waited for about an hour to see a doctor to get a prescription for some medication that I’ve been taking for years. I’ve been doing that once a month since I moved here. It’s a pain but I love this country so I thought I could deal with it. Today the doctor’s assistant said “you know you can just go to the reception and ask them to get your prescription you don’t have to wait and see the doctor?” like it was the most obvious thing ever. Mind. Blown.

  3. Jessica

    I was just talking to my coworker about my Diet Coke habit and at some point in the conversation, she pointed out, “So really, it’s just a work habit.” And that blew my mind completely. I’d been so focused on cutting it out at home, that I didn’t realize the habit is now work-specific. It’s time to reevaluate my plan to drink less Diet Coke. It was a simple, off-hand comment, but it’s totally changed the way I think about goal-setting and achievement. As you work towards a goal, you have to continue to evaluate your plan and adjust accordingly.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Yes! Such a great observation!

  4. Katharine

    I love that you include reminding people about their successes and positive qualities in here! That’s such an important thing to do, and it can make such a difference to someone’s daily/weekly/professional/life choices.

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