“This will be really easy for you to do.”
“This is super simple.”
“This shouldn’t take you long at all.”
Every time you say this to someone, you’re diminishing them.
Every time you tell someone that completing a task or solving a problem will be easy, you’re telling them that you don’t know them and that you don’t care to know.
You’re saying loud and clear “you’re just like me, and if you’re not just like me then tough luck.”
Don’t do this.
Instead, take the time to realize that your experience and perspective may not be universal. Other people may have different perspectives, different strengths and weaknesses, different skills and different knowledge.
Someone with dyslexia may struggle with some common tasks that involve consuming or processing written information, despite reading every day.
Someone on the autism spectrum may struggle with tasks that involve social interaction, understanding the motivations and goals of others, or understanding how their actions will be perceived by others, despite interacting with people every day.
Someone who is short may struggle reaching items on high shelves, despite taking things off and putting things back onto shelves every day.
Despite any hidden difficulties, these struggling people may still show every sign of effortless success. The things that are constantly difficult for them may be part of their day-to-day work. The tasks that challenge and batter and exhaust them may be part of the successes that define their public persona and reputation. But this doesn’t make the struggle any less real. This doesn’t make it easy.
When someone completes a task that would be easy for you, it could be because it is also easy for them. But it could also be because they spent extra hours or days preparing, or that they have special tools and practices that enable their success.
Speaking of tools and practices, let’s get back to those short people. I’m choosing this example because it’s a simple one that everyone will be able to relate to, or at least to understand. Mental and emotional challenges are no less real than physical ones, but they’re often more difficult to communicate and appreciate.
My wife is a foot (30.5 cm) shorter than I am. We both cook a lot, and we share kitchen tasks like cleaning and putting away dishes.
In our kitchen we we use the top of the cupboards as extra storage for large bowls and canisters and such. I can reach these items with ease, although I may need to stand on my toes to get a better grip. Most of the time I don’t even think about it. For me the top of the cupboards is just another handy shelf.
My wife cannot begin to reach the top of the cupboards – what is simple and effortless for me is difficult or impossible for her without additional help or tools. If she needs to get down something from the shelf she needs to walk into the dining room, get a chair, bring the chair into the kitchen, stand on the chair, get down the item she needs, step down from the chair, take the chair back into the dining room, and return to the kitchen to use whatever item she took down.
Think about that: what might take me half a second and a single motion might take her a minute or more, including some potentially dangerous steps along the way.
Of course, the solutions here are as trivial as the problem itself: I get down and put away the things my wife needs, and we are selective in what we store above the cupboards so this is an edge case rather than a common occurrence. But the only reasons we’re able to find this shared path to success is because we recognize the challenge and collaborate to apply our own individual strengths, while acknowledging and minimizing the impact of our individual weaknesses.
When someone’s work appears effortless, it could be because it comes naturally to them, and they may move on easily to their next chore, and the next. But it could also be that the effort is hidden, and that when the work is done they will need a few hours or a few days just to recover from the herculean exertion that you will never see.
You don’t know, and you probably never will.
So don’t tell me it’s easy, even if it is easy for you. Instead, work with me to discover how it can be easier for us, working together.
 Hold that thought. I’ll come back to this one.