Tuesday, December 09, 2008


When we try to change others, we are attempting to persuade them. Many of us are looking for the best methods to change others and we tend to concentrate our efforts in a narrow fashion. Allow me to suggest that the most powerful device for changing others is available to all of us.

If we divide the world of communication into two parts it will facilitate our thinking: 1) verbal communication and 2) nonverbal communication. If we examine how we learn to do much of what we do we will discover that it we learned through observation, or non verbally. If we examine which of these two processes individually in our own experience we will discover that we trust most often "what you do rather than what you say."

Another aspect of communication is that the impact of communication tends to build over time. It isn't what mom told us to do once, but a thousand times. That still is no guarantee that we will "do" what mom said we ought to do. On the other hand, we probably will remember it very well. Later in life, when it seems that what mom was advocating is the best course of action, we may adopt part or all of what she tried to persuade us to do.

If we put these ideas together we should discover that the most powerful attempts to change people is by our own example. As our non verbals are "heard" over time we begin to assemble our changes based on the observed evidence. We become changed. The person or persons who started the process of change (persuasion) may never know the role they played in the change. Never be discouraged that your attempts to elicit change have "apparently" failed. There is no way for you to know that.

But, there is a huge problem attached to all of this discussion. What about one of the most prevalent and obvious attempts to change our behavior: elections. Since most of the candidates are not personally known to us through day to day observations and since they can allow certain well chosen bits of information to flow through the media, we end up making choices based not on personal observation. Instead we make them verbally, know full well that we don't trust verbal communication nearly as much as we trust nonverbal communication.

This should force us to look for outcomes, performance records uncontrolled by anyone, on which to base our changes. Here we are very weak. We tend to ignore history, even recent history, and choose based on the weakest data, verbal. We play a major role in our own changes. Take the time, energy and focus to change (persuade) yourself that you deserve. Don't allow anybody's words alone, even mine, to change you when more can and should be done.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Communication and Jobs

Most of us have heard about networking, contacting people, and getting hired. Let's add one more dimension to that idea of networking. When people hire, they would prefer to hire people that they know. The closer they can come to knowing the person the more likely they will hire them.

Clearly one of the jobs for each of us then is to get out and meet new people. Never stop getting to know people. The more folk that know you and want to help you out, the more likely that they will contact someone who is looking for a new employee. It is clear that for many of us we will be stepping out of our comfort zone in order to accomplish the task.

Remember, if the person doing the hiring does not already know you, be certain that they know somebody that does know you. Adding one last thought for now, be certain that if a resume is required that it is more like a sales presentation than an obituary. Include the accomplishments and goals you have and tie those to the business to which you are applying.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Simple To Use Every Day

Certain elements often make up the basic building blocks of communication. These elements are useful in a very wide range of situations:


We all enjoy being introduced to attractive people. Part of what makes them attractive is the promise of things to come. That is often based on things that have happened in the past. In order for introductions to work for us, we need to recall that those involved have a mental set coming into the situation. The better you are a predicting what that mental set is the better the introduction. Remember, you have to move the audience from where they are to where they must be for the introduction to be productive. Give them enought information that they want to hear/see/feel more. Get and hold their attention.

The real reason for the communication to exist is the content of the body. Filled with facts and opinions it can help relationships and programs if structured properly. That depends on who they think you are and who you think you are. Evaluate who they think your are and make any necessary adjustments and keep in mind who you think you are. Be aware of what they think of the content of what you're addressing and put it into terms that will be as palatable as possible for them and as accurate as possible for you. Put the content into forms, statistics, definitions, stories, and pictures that will increase their understanding and give them clarity. Fit the content to them to the best of your ability.

Remind them of who they are and what they now know by listing a short, accurate, memorable summary of what they have just heard. If possible, remind them of who you are and that your background continues to be of value to them. As a test their answer to the question what did you say should be 1) who you are, 2) what you have said, 3) why it was important to them and they should be able to express it in their own words.

If these elements were followed in all of our communication we would be much more effective. Review quickly before each communication situation the basic elements we have just covered and increase our successes.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Importance Of Words

When we have a limited vocabulary we sometimes don't make much sense to ourselves, let alone others. The greater the vocabulary the more likely that we can express ourselves accurately. Take interpersonal relationships for example.

If we recognize that there is a progression in relationships and that we can name them, then we also understand that we must take care to not get the "cart before the horse." These terms are important: 1) pre-interaction awareness, 2) initiation, 3) intensification, and 4) intimacy.

Pre-interaction awareness: describes what happens when we become aware of people who appear to have the potential to be important to us. They may appear to be beautiful, handsome, bright and/or funny. We like what we see. Clearly the more experience we have in analyzing people the more likely our assumptions will be accurate. Saying or doing anything that is not appropriate for this level of the relationship can threaten the very survival of the relationship. Hard as it is to remember, other people are doing to us what we are doing to them. This stage of a budding relationship is critical if for no other reason than nonverbal communication is always ambiguous.

Initiation: decribes the first direct contact with the other person. You move from passive to active communication. Mom often talked to most of us about first impressions. This process of initiation is part of that first impression and you're not going to get two chances to make that first impression. Mom was right. Don't you hate it? You must be careful, thoughtful and bring to bear all the skills you have in reading people from a distance in order to be successful. That may very well be why introductions are still very valuable, because someone else can put you into the "proper" context before you start to initiate the relationship.

Exploration: a period of time which can and should be used to find out more about the other person and share information about yourself that they really ought ot know. This period need never end. You will never know everything about anyone you know and they are in the same position. Somehow we have gotten the idea that if you know enough about a person to claim them as friend or spouse you know everything you need to know. That may be a contributing factor in the break of friendships and marriages. Never stop exploring. Exploring takes time and focus. You may think that its just a dinner at some restaurant and you would be wrong. It is much more than food and surroundings, it is finding out about the other person and what they like and don't like. Or how they feel about some issue that comes up during dinner. Without the continuous exploration you may be headed for stress or even disaster.

Intimacy: a term we often limit to physical realationships and shouldn't. It is true that intamacy attempted at the wrong time may be considered inappropriate and forever damage a realtionship. But, on a broader base, intimacy is knowing a person in ways that no other does or maybe can. That takes time, contact, focus and those are all things that we tend to short change.

Monday, October 06, 2008


Back in April I wrote about nonverbal communicaiton and it can be repeated I think.

"How many times do I have to tell you that I love you?" One of the things we should examine is, "Why is this person asking over and over again do you love me?" There are several possible reasons.

Instead of letting your frustration burst out, think about what they are saying or at least what you think they are saying. They may be saying that, "If you really loved me you would be around more often and longer." They could also be saying, "I hear what you say to me, but I don't hear an adequate explanation why you can love me." Probably the first of these two explanations is the most important.

The reason is simple: time. Time and your use of it says a huge amount about who you are and what you value. People spend most of their time doing what they prefer to do. When they aren't spending time the way they want to, they usually complain loud and long. If you love someone and you don't choose to spend time with them, then they have a right to wonder about your real feelings."

There are other reasons of course, but we should pay careful attention to our use of time. We are saying things to our boss, friends, children spouse by our use of time, even when we think we've got it covered with words.

Keep in mind the question, "What am I communicating to myself and others?" It may aid you in the process of making a decision about what to do. Are you telling yourself that since you know why you're doing what you're doing your significant other will understand? Are you certain you know how they will interpret your nonverbals with the same interpretation you have?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's A Building Game

It is my belief that parents are the first and best teachers a child can have. Even if the parents aren't ready to be parents, the children will still learn whatever the parents are teaching. The children know only "that's the way its done and I can do that." You can guess that I think in order for parents to build excellent people they 1) prepare themselves for the never ending task of parenting, 2) they must work together put together the healthiest human they can and 3) then they must give that human the basic building blocks for excellence.

Public or private schools are primarily there to aid the parents through expertise and remediation to build the best possible human being.

You can predict then that if I were king I would insist that every person that had as a goal parenting they mus demonstrate that they have taken excellent care of themselves mentally, physically and spiritually in preparation for the huge task ahead of them.

We often can slow things down and choose our words with care, but there is almost nothing we can do with our actions. What we tend to forget is, "Do as I say and not as I do," merely points out the futility of hiding behind such things as "I never once told them that they could or should do that." When in fact, they already knew before we had the opportunity to use words they had seen how it is really done by the folk in charge.

This whole process deserves a great deal of time and attention. Few of us are apparently allowing for the time and we're too busy to focus on the problem.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Great Opportunity

We have a great opportunity to watch some of the most skilled communicators on the planet attempt to reach their goals through communication. In short, we have two political parties trying to find a way to get their candidate elected in November. From one point of view, the USA and the world has a great deal at stake.

From another point of view, we can learn from these experts more about human communication and we'll have the opportunity to see which methods contributed to the success of these candidates. We all need to take the time to learn. That provides us with increased capabilities when it comes to communication and it provides us with a valuable process whereby we can protect ourselves from folk who attempt to use communication for self advancement at our expense.

When watching/listening/reading ask yourself some questions. 1. Why is this person saying what they are saying to me at this time? 2. Who do they apparently think I am? 3. Are they providing useful, important and tested evidence to support their positions? 4. If there is going to be a benefit to their conclusions, who are those that benefit the most?

Ask yourself these questions in addition. 1. Why am I paying attention to this communication source? 2. Do I want support for what I believe to be true or do I want to know what the best solution currently is? 3. Since the issues are apparently very important to what extent am I willing to evaluate the communications and determine along with what I learn and know what course of action(s) is appropriate?

If we do little or nothing we will become what we all say we dislike: sheep led to slaughter. If we act responsibly it may help to reshape the future of our country, the world and maybe most importantly, our lives. We will become harder to fool or mislead, because we have developed some patterns that protect us from those who would control us.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


When you get close to some things you may no longer be able see them for what they are or were. Noise is one of those things. Noise is anything we don't value or appreciate or it can be much more important and demand our attention. Noise that demands our attention is what the concept I'm talking about.

Noise is anything that affects the fidelity of messages. Noise comes in many forms. If you were around me quite a bit you would discover that I have a tendency to begin talking about things that are perfectly clear to me, but since you haven't been inside my head, you haven't a clue as to what I'm thinking or saying. There is no context for you and you don't know what to do with the words.

So you ask, "What on earth are you talking about?"

Slightly irritated, I respond, "What do you think? I was talking about the current political campaign." From my egocentric point of view, you knew what I was thinking and now you're pretending not to follow my thought. That is an example of noise. When you assume that the ideas you have in your head are clearly represented by the ideas in the other person(s) head and you expect them to be able to understand what on earth you are talking about. Noise: anything that affects the fidelity of the message.

Another example of noise: "Please slow down. Your accent is making it hard for me to follow what you are saying. By the time I figure out what you have said, you're already off and running in a different direction." Accents can make oral communication a problem.

Another example: you and I are sitting in a cafe where everybody seems to be talking at the top of their voices, laughing and the jukebox is turned up way too loud. We came into the cafe for coffee and conversation. Now we realize that the noise level is so high we can't hear each other talking. So, we grab our coffees and head out to some more quite spot to talk.

Another example: I'm an actor in a play and I was forced to put my costume on before getting to the theater for rehearsal. My outfit makes me look like I haven't eaten enough for months, I haven't had a bath or shaved for an equally long time and I'm asking for directions to the theater. One quick look from you and you realize that you have nothing to say to me that I will understand or appreciate. So you just walk on by. The noise of my appearance is so loud that you won't really hear what I'm saying with my words, only what I'm saying with my costume.

Noise can be a lot of things, and they are all important to the fidelity of the message. We all need to spend a lot more time thinking about noise and how we need to control it.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Communicating Is Important

We all have been told that our skills in communication are basic to earning a living, who you associate with and the success you have with friends, spouse and children. Communicating is important. One of the areas many of us hope that we never have to face is the need for successful communication before a "really large group of people that may or may not like us."

We all know more and think about more often, the weaknesses we have. As long as I'm quiet people have to guess what those weaknesses are. But, if I stand before an audience and speak right out loud, our fear is that everybody will know about our weaknesses.

One of the important aspects of learning is the discovery of multiple ways to approach situations. If by focusing on communication we can discover multiple ways to approach communication situations, we're going to be ahead of the game. We will discover that you may not "win" all the time. But, you don't have to "lose" all the time either. You are not powerless even though you may never be powerful.

Since the only way we can direct changes that will happen in our lives, no longer relying on luck, is through communication, it is extremely important that at some level we think about, practice, learn skills that will tilt the future in the proper direction.

There are many places where we can and should learn about communications.
1. Observe others
2. Try alternative methods
3. Read books, magazines and periodicals that are about communications
4. Take courses at educational institutions or offered by competent professionals

Some really good and others not nearly so good can be watched and listened to in the privacy of our own office or in the library and even on your smart phone. Two of these are: FORA.tv, "the world is thinking, and, now, you can always be a part of it;" and TED.com, "ideas worth spreading." There are many others, but these would make an excellent starting point.

Keep in mind that learning doesn't always begin with agreement. Be honest to yourself and others, keep your mind as open as possible and never stop looking for a better way.

Thursday, May 01, 2008


We often think of the importance of communication and achievement of personal goals, but forget that one of those goals is employment. Employment is more than a way to pay the bills or should be. It should be an expression of what you want to do with your life and the contribution you want to make to those around you.

We sometimes call that networking. Networking as I'm using the term and according to Wikipedia, is “Communication with and within a group; "You have to network if you want to get a good job". This should be a powerful, useful and continually used tool in our everyday lives. Why it isn't may be the subject of several books you should be writing. For now, let it be said that there almost seems to be a barrier between us and others when it comes to providing others with vital information about us that others really need in order to make reasonable decisions about us.

The task then is to communicate: 1) about who we are, 2) what we have done, 3) what we would like to do, and 4) where we would like to do it. We can do that verbally, by telling people that we come in contact with and we can do it nonverbally by doing the things that represent your life goals. Keep in mind that nonverbal communication is more believable that verbal communication, so you really need to demonstrate interest and enthusiasm for the goals you claim.

Remember reciprocity: I'll show you mine if you'll show me your's. Its only fair and it will create a “network' of folk who will be happy to help you out, because by helping you they are in fact helping themselves. Over time, these elements in your network will become friends or at least friendly.

Verbally, voice and in writing: cards, letters, notes, conversations, etc. remind folk of your goals. Nonverbally never stop working toward your goal. Don't hide, but work right out in front of everybody. The worst thing that can happen to you is that you'll fail. Failure is just another aspect of life and we do survive failures after all. Find ways to leave reminders of you and your goals with people you come into contact with. Include contact information: how do they reach you, where do you live and failing that who knows your contact information?

When you help others, make certain that they know all your contact information. When those you've helped are asked about how they were able to accomplish their tasks, most of them are happy to tell you about the “people” they have and know.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Relationship Values

Once you have established a relationship that you value, why would you ignore it allowing it to dissolve? Most of us wouldn't. On the other hand, most of us haven't looked at what it takes to maintain a relationship in the first place.

First, let's look at what it takes to build the relationship since that is what we hope to maintain, in fact build upon. Imagine a couple, they see each other and they notice a wide range of things: activities, goals, personal awareness as well as other awareness. We like all those things. They apparently feel the same way about you. Fact is, both of you spend a great deal of time together and find out about one another. Put another way, each allows the other to build a representation of themselves in their mind. This is the person that they will carry with themselves over their lifetime. Of course it will need to be updated and revised since each of us is a work in progress and subject to constant change.

Second, there is never a time when you aren't building a “you” in their mind. (You cannot, not communicate.) Since the building process is time and energy consuming you are either building a stronger and better relationship or their “image of you” is fading (dying). If it took time and energy to build the relationship you will have to spend time and energy to continue the process. Somehow, we have come to believe that once established it is like a sturdy building and will be there forever. That will eventually lead to fights, affairs, diverging interests and divorce.

So what is the most likely answers to this problem? 1) Recognition that life and relationships are processes and the process is only finished when one of you dies. 2) If you hope to build on similar interests and goals you will have to spend the time and energy necessary to pursue interests together, try new and different things together, and continue to repeat the shared interests that brought you two together in the first place. 3) If you are spending more time with a professional colleague than you are with your significant other, then it is very likely that the person and environment that you're building in your mind will be in conflict with the world you built with your significant other. It just may be true that “When you're away from the one you love, you love the one you're near.”

An excellent reason for early and continual discussions about personal and professional goals and how they should, or should not be pursued. An excellent reason for selecting a profession that will allow you to maintain what you have so painstakingly created over an extended period of time. An excellent reason to recognize that it may not really be possible to do anything to which you set your mind.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


“How many times do I have to tell you that I love you?” One of the things we should examine is, “Why is this person asking over and over again do you love me?” There are several possible reasons.

Instead of letting your frustration burst out, think about what they are saying or at least what you think they are saying. They may be saying that, “If you really loved me you would be around more often and longer.” They could also be saying, “I hear what you say to me, but I don’t hear an adequate explanation why you can love me.” Probably the first of these two explanations is the most important.

The reason is simple: time. Time and your use of it says a huge amount about who you are and what you value. People spend most of their time doing what they prefer to do. When they aren’t spending time the way they want to, they usually complain loud and long. If you love someone and you don’t choose to spend time with them, then they have a right to wonder about your real feelings.

In our society there are several things that attempt to make demands on our time: work/professional, pursuit of pleasures, use of available time if there is any. The first use of time is important in our middle American culture. There is a fairly strong temptation for us to think that work and professional lives are important. In fact, in many cases, the work loads of many Americans makes their interpersonal relationships difficult. This may force us to make ethical decisions about how we want to live our lives. Is it about your career or is it about you family/significant other?

In the pursuit of pleasures we may be abusive to those we think we love the most. Even if non-professional time should pop up, do we seek to spend it with those we love, or do we pursue pleasures that may be self-centered. Think about time and how you use it. It is an extremely important device for saying things to people around. Make certain that you are saying what you intend to say by your use of time.

Keep in mind that nonverbal is more believable than verbal. Both are necessary.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Words Well Chosen

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” That thought passed on to us by Mark Twain tells us something we’ve told ourselves a thousand times: “Next time, think before you open your mouth.”

We often confuse the brief pause that should precede a thoughtful response with ignorance rather than intelligence. The first thing we need to do is put our childhood competition to be fastest at everything behind us and adopt a different pattern—think before you speak. Several things will then be possible.

1) Who are they?
2) What did they say?
3) What are the most likely possibilities they are talking about?
4) Why are they talking about that now?
5) Why are they talking to me about that?
6) What are the possible things I could say?
7) What would be the best way to say them to this person?

Your brain with a bit of practice can handle all of that very quickly. Then when you open your mouth, it is less likely that you will simply insert your foot. You need to persuade your brain that brief pauses are not indications of stupidity. Indeed, it is quite the opposite. That pause should you the opportunity to decide what needs to be said and give you a pretty good idea of how best to say it.

One last question could/should be added to the list above. Ask appropriate questions before you respond. Be certain that you know what is being discussed. Remember, your brain may still be in the mode if was just moments before this new situation came up. It could be that your brain will interpret what is being said in light of what you have been thinking rather than the new context. Relax . . .take your time and avoid putting your foot in your mouth as often.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Reframing Is Good

If something in your background doesn’t make you pause and then at times withdraw, you are the exception. These seemingly small events in our lives can reshape it if we’re not aware and careful. One of the tools for moving past thes “unfortunate experiences” is useful. To reframe an experience may save you a great deal of grief.

In the book Communication: Principles of a Lifetime, by Beebe, Beebe and Ivy, the authors remind us that what it means to reframe. “Try to look at experiences and events, especially those that can cause you to lose self-esteem, from a different point of view. Keep the larger picture in mind, rather than focusing on one isolated, negative incident.”

For example, someone asked you to speak at an event and for one reason or another you feel to this day that the event was terrible and damaging to you. It makes no difference that you were only 14 years old and that probably nobody remembers what happened but you. You’re not about to put yourself into a position where you could cause yourself that much pain again.

Reframe—think about your life. Have there been positive changes in the way you live and think? Have you done things that other folk admire and wish that they could do as well? What have your friends said about the event and the progress you have made in life? Review the things you’ve learned. What did you wish you had done? Have you attempted even when alone in the shower to do the things of which you’ve thought? Do you believe that given the same circumstance as you had before you could now do it better than you did?

Are you willing now to think about what you wish you had done and then practice. What you will find is that you end up giving yourself a break (and who deserves one any more than you do) and you’ve made progress toward broadening your abilities. At least you should be able to reframe the situation so that you can see that you do indeed have the ability necessary and that you are much better prepared now to handle this type of situation.

Monday, April 07, 2008

A Two-Way Street

Communication is a two-way street and our goal should be to make maximum use of communication. When we feel better (increased self-esteem) because of something said to us we need to be ready to help those around us with how they feel (increased self-esteem). As we must admit, we find out about who we are from those we travel with. That is the reason we should change our friends as soon as we realize that those “friends” are not committed to positively building you into what you can be.

It is only reasonable that we in turn search for and take advantage of every opportunity to build our friends up. Not to be confused with saying things that aren’t true in an effort to build them in the direction we would like. It has got to be a really evil person about which you can find nothing good to say. Travel with good people and make them better because they are traveling with you. You will be building a relationship that should last a lifetime. You will be better than you could have been without them and so will they.

Relationships are ever so much more than “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” It is very likely the most important work you will do during your life.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


This is seemingly a simple concept. But, like the word love it is abstract and has many possible definitions. Friends are important because they provide us with balance when we need it, insight when we must have it, support when we might give up, and belief in our value when even we may have lost it and it never ends. Friends are forever.

This definition is attributed to Aristotle: a friend is “a soul that resides in two bodies.” A friend is an individual that knows you and wouldn’t abandon you even if you tried to ditch them. They are sometimes parents, brothers, sisters, significant others and spouses. Because they know us so well, they find listening to be possible when otherwise we might have to pay a professional to listen to us. They know us so well that they cannot be fooled into thinking that we have given up on some of our goals. They know us so well that they can diagnose and nurse us back to the individual we had hoped to become.

We need friends. But, friends take time. They have to have the opportunity to learn all about us and that takes time. Once you have a friend you must maintain that friendship and that takes time. And if you are lucky enough to have a friend they merit your friendship. And that takes time. In short, for many of us, our lifestyle doesn’t allow for friends only acquaintances. As long as your company is productive for them acquaintances will stick around. As soon as you become a problem they’re gone.

Don’t confuse the two and make the time to build and maintain friendships. That’s the best life insurance you can have.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ethics and Actions

“The right act can be identified as the one causing the greatest good and the immoral act as the one impeding it.” (Sahakian, William S. & Sahakian, Mabel Lewis. Ideas of the Great Philosophers. pg 31. Barnes and Noble Books (1993). ISBN 9781566192712)

The concept of ethics should be powerful at all times as we attempt to shape ourselves and the world around us to best fit the situations in which we find ourselves. The ethical solutions we discover will come from a wide base of sources and cannot be confined to what any one source believes to be true, right and proper. And as we grow, shift and change, we must keep in mind that what once seemed to be “safe and profound” may shift in values, causing us to shift in values. This is a lifelong task.

The reason for its importance is simple. We are going to communicate from a shifting platform of awareness to others who will receive the communication from a shifting platform. The reason for the shifting platforms is easy: the more we experience and lean from, the greater the potential changes in all of us. That reminds me of a conversation once reported to me that went something like this.

He said, “Are you sure?”
I said, “Positive!”
He said, “Only fools are positive.”
I said, “Are you sure?”
He said, “Positive!”

One of the important things we spend our early lives learning is our culture. Our culture is taught to us first by mom and then dad and then everybody else around us on a regular basis. After a few years we go to school and suddenly we discover that not everybody does or says the same things. What a shock. Often we assume that the way we do it is correct and the way they do it is wrong. That often leads to problems in a few years.

DeVito definition: “Culture consists of the beliefs, ways of believing and artifacts of a group. By definitions, culture is transmitted through communication and learning rather than genes.”

If we take any of this seriously we should proceed with caution every time we communicate, because even within families where “the same culture” was taught, we find differences. In our modern world we have very dissimilar cultures living and working together all the time. Since we should be looking for ”the greatest good” when we communicate we need as much preparation time as is available.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

So, What's Your Prediction?

There are those that say that we, as a nation, have never come to grips with our own history. We indeed did own and build an economy on the backs of slaves. Later, after a war between the states those slaves were "freed." But, often it is said that because we haven't come to grips with our own history, we can't seem to move past thinking of the decendents of slaves as being inferior and unworthy.

Men and women live together in our nation and according to much that I have been taught over the years, both should be awarded according to the benefits of their efforts equally. Yet, there is a continual problem. woman make 80% of what men make doing the same kind of work. After about a decade women are making 69% of what men make doing the same kind of work.

Let's hope those two assumptions are incorrect, but if they are correct how can we use that information to predict the outcome of a presidential election? Take the first assumption that suggests that as a nation we have not come to grips with our "experiment" with slavery. If these ex-slaves are indeed inferior, why would we vote for one? If we feel badly about how these slaves were treated, why would we give them the power to do unto us what we have done to them? Put another way, if we no longer talk about our past actions and in fact do not wish to admit any complicity in those actions why would we vote for someone that might overturn a culture that was worked well for at least part of our society?

I I really do hope that the second assumption is incorrect about women not being paid what they should be for doing the work they do. But, if that is correct, why would we vote for a woman giving someone we have short changed in a number of ways the power to overturn our culture and possibly reversing the tables?

My guess would be that the outcome of the next presidential election may make it impossible or nearly impossible for an ex-slave or a woman to win. Not because they are incapable of great leadership, but because we aren't certain that we want to follow the leadership of those that might be tempted to get even with us.

Just a thought. What do you think? Please comment.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Nonverbal Communication

“We respond to gestures with an extreme alertness and, one might say, in accordance with an elaborate and secret code that is written nowhere, known by none, and understood by all.” This concept written by Eduard Sapir contains a great deal of truth.

We often respond to people when we are still a considerable distance from them. We say things like: “Hey, do you know who that is?” “What are they doing here?” “Why are police officers walking all around here. Should I be concerned?”

We ask those questions because of a desire/need to know what is happening and the possibility that we might become involved. In spite of the fact that moms and dads are our first and best teachers, we can’t recall any lessons in nonverbal communication but are attempting to make use of it anyway.

We know that we use nonverbal communication all the time, trying to decide where to go and what to do. We too often think that others aren’t making use of nonverbal communication. Our dress, actions and general “isolation” from others indicates that we don’t really think they are using nonverbal communications and making judgments on what to do next based on their interpretations. Those interpretations must be inaccurate.

Those interpretations must be inaccurate because we don’t have enough information to form accurate explanations. We see things, such as a person we suspect doesn’t have enough money to afford the Porsche they’re driving on a regular basis. We decide that the car must belong to a parent, uncle or maybe they’re drug dealers. The more we think about how they act the more convinced that they really are drug dealers. When all is said in done, nonverbal communications are ambiguous and we need to think about them more often and more carefully than we do.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Who Am I

The fact is that each of us are a process and are constantly changing. The scary part is that we change in part by the influence of people around us. That makes it critical that we choose our friends with great care. You can't choose your parents or other relatives and they have a huge impact on who you think you are.

When you surround yourself with individuals who are honest, capable and willing to spend time with you then you have an excellent start on becoming a person that will be successful. Of course, both you and those around you define success. That definition leads to a longterm process of goal setting which leads to the satisfaction of "success."

The heart of the situation is that we can't tell how effective we are without the aid of others to keep us informed and make suggestions. These people become a series of "mirrors" for us to use to check our performance. As our communications improve we can establish longer term goals. But as long as there is life in us we will be setting goals and attempting to reach them because life is a process and so is communication.

Here's an example: you see someone and say to yourself, "I would really like to know that person better." You set a goal for yourself to spend some time with them letting them know a little about you and at the same time learn a little about them. If they are willing, you have just learned something about yourself. Every situation can lead you to improve your communication skills leading to achievement of goals.

This is a really round about way to say that we should always be learning about communication and we should always be applying what have learned to every day life. That way, we can use those things which work and avoid those things that simple don't work for us.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Breaking Out

Awareness of our communication is always going to be a problem. Assumptions are many and are almost always incorrect. For example, someone reports that you didn't seem too happy when you were told that our vacation plans were going to change. Your position is simple, since I can't do anything about the change in plans, why say anything. So, as you recall the situation, you didn't say anything.

Here's a problem: communication is inescapable. We may not have "said" anything using our words, but we may have said a whole lot with our nonverbal communication. We actually believe that since we didn't "say" anything you can't know that we have been frustrated by a change in plans. Of course we can be misinterpreted, because nonverbal communication is extremely ambiguous, but the more others know about us the less ambiguous our nonverbal communications are.

Another problem: communication is irreversible. We can't take back the verbal or nonverbal communication. It is already in other people's minds and not even they can get rid of it. In fact, the more you try to remove the communication the more likely it is that it will be recalled.

Indeed, communication is complicated. Games like poker can be played more successfully if you are able to hide your nonverbal communication. Some of us seem to be transparent and couldn't keep a secret if our lives depended on it. Some of us "have a way with words" and always seem able to say just the right thing. The more attention we pay to our communication and the better we listen to communications the more likely it is that we can reduce the consequences of being "trapped in our own skin."

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Trapped Inside

Some of the more obvious things about life are often overlooked. We're born, but can't recall being asked to be born. We're alive and soon we are expected to take care of ourselves in nearly all aspects of our lives. When we're born we have no language skills and we don't know most of the rules for successful living. We are wholly dependent on others for most things until we finally are "allowed" (another word might be "forced") to assume responsibility for living a life we didn't ask for in the first place.

Looked at from that point of view, life might seem bleak. On the other hand, there are a great many things about life that are fantastic. If we are willing to learn how many of them are achievable during our lifetime. Most of what we need is the indirect support of others who are in the same position we are. It can be argued that a successful life is made up of learning and adapting.

Communication in all its forms is at the heart of learning and adapting. In fact, being able to think is heavily dependent on communication. As we move through our lives we need to be able to let others know what is going on inside of us and allow them to see what is going on inside of them. In a very real sense, we are trapped inside without communication skills. As our skills increase we gain more and more freedom from the restrictions our bodies started off with at the beginning of life. Communication is worth any time and effort we can spend learning and practicing. Learn and apply until we're dead. The other choice is to remain captive, trapped inside.