Thursday, January 22, 2009

This Or That

When we communicate there are two main reasons we attempt it: to inform or to persuade.

When we communicate to inform we are attempting to teach. The primary concern under these circumstances is to make clear and easy to recall those things that will be necessary for the listener to understand. We all are teachers and we are called on to explain things on a regular basis. There are several questions that would be useful to ask yourself before you begin.
1) What do they need to know?
2) What do they already know? Be careful here or you may be offensive.
3) How will they best be able to follow and remember necessary information?

These questions are useful no matter how large or small the audience is. It helps if the person(s) seeking the information think/believe that you know. The more certain they are that you do know the more likely that they will focus their attention on what you are saying/doing.

When we communicate to persuade we are attempting to alter their position, change their mind, modify their behavior and so on. Here we must put together information, some of which they probably already know and then organize it so that certain conclusions seem to flow naturally from the information. You will still be a teacher, but now you care about the outcome and you want them to change. The same questions listed above apply now as well. This time you will describe the outcome you value and if time permits describe outcomes that are not as desirable no matter how tempting.

The more they believe that you know what you're talking about and the easier it is for them to change the more likely they will focus on and recall what you have said--and the more likely they will change in the direction you had hoped for. Again, the more they perceive you as being informed and clear thinking the more likely they will focus on and accept and spend less time questioning what you say. If they see the change as being useful, fulfilling, desirable, dependable and reasonable they may make a two changes: change in behavior (vote for you) and change in mind (believe that you have given them a truth to live by.)

We use both forms of communication every day. We want those around us to know more about us and we want some of the them to accept us as friends and cohorts.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Problem

"The things I want to do, think about and talk about are just not the things that others want to hear." That's not an unusual complaint.

The problem is, how can I talk about my interests without being boring to others? Ask yourself some questions:
1) Why am I interested?
2) How did I become interested?
3) How might this topic impact the person(s) I'm addressing?
4) What are the interests the person(s) I'm addressing?

First, why do you find certain things interesting and others not so interesting. There must be elements in your choice of ideas and activities that have led you to spend time and energy in that area. What are those elements?

Second, how did I become interested in these ideas and activities when many of the people I know haven't demonstrated any particular interest? These elements may very well suggest a path others will recognize and understand. People who may know or care very little for your particular interest may be able to understand why somebody would be interested.

Third, what impact can you think of that might impact those you are addressing that is directly related to interest in your topic? Much, if not all of us are impacted by changes that we don't know about or wouldn't even approve of if we knew about them. We are still impacted and anything that affects us is likely to hold our attention.

What are the interests of the people you are addressing? They are and probably should be centered on their lives. After all, if they don't take care of themselves, who will? Enlightened self interest has a positive ring to it. Certainly more positive than selfish. But, that is a very good place to begin. You should find a wealth of possible ties when you view the enlightened self interest as it relates to your own interests.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

What We Overlook

There are some simple facts of life which we tend to overlook. First, we have a tendency to think of ourselves as being ordinary. But, if you will take a moment you will discover that people you know have a tendency to ask you questions about things. If you examine the questions you will begin to get an idea of what they think are your areas of expertise. On the other hand, you might be thinking that there are lots of people who know more than you do about those topics. For now, we should focus on what we know and what those around us think we know to get an idea of who we are. We are their experts.

Second, when we are asked questions because they think we know, two things are going to happen. Let's say they ask us, "How do I change the depth of field when taking pictures with my camera?" We know we're their "experts" in this area. The second thing that we do when we answer their question is "practice" communication. That rehearsal is valuable because it increases the likelihood that in the future you can effectively explain the process. The more often you are asked and the more often you successfully answer the question the more rehearsals you have had and if asked to explain it to a large group there will be very little problem.

We tend to think of ourselves as something less than an expert and we arrive at that conclusion without proper evaluation. And we tend to think that we haven't rehearsed our communication and therefore are not properly prepared. Rethink these situations because you are very likely the expert your audience thinks you are and you have practiced and rehearsed your communication because you have talked about the subject repeatedly. Now, just stand up and do what you know you can do.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


It seems that some of the most common things in our lives are simply taken for granted. Some of them like pure water, clean air, safe food, good health seem to be just there for us to take advantage of. But, if and when they are in short supply we begin to notice them. First with concern and ultimately with something that approaches panic.

One of the those common things is human communication. We assume that things are just fine and we continue to do what worked for us last week until, something really goes wrong. Then we want to know what happened. Much of the time faulty communications happened and now we're in a pickle. Some things about communication problems can be avoided or minimized by paying careful attention.

For example: "Who are they?" "Who do I think they are?" "Who do they think they are?" "Who am I?" "Who do they think that I am?" "What did they say?" "What did they mean?"

Those are questions that can be answered in an ever improving fashion and the use of those questions will make a huge difference in your ability to reach your goals. In fact, the more we think about, study, plan and deliver our communications the more likely we'll be able to:
1) live with the person of our choice,
2) live in the community of our choice,
3) work at the job of our choice,
4) work at the level of our choice, and
5) work at the pay of our choice.

Making effective communication even more difficult is that fact that we are always communicating. We often don't know what we are "saying" or to whom we are "saying" it. That's because you and I too often decide from a great distance that some folk just don't seem to be the kind of person we are interested in know. They had no idea that they said anything to you at all.

Communication is tough and deserves careful thought and preparation.