Friday, April 03, 2009


Aristotle said that there are three (3) ingredients in communication:
1) speaker,
2) speech and
3) listener.

Correct or not, these are useful concepts. First, look at the speaker. The following questions should help us understand what we do and then help us to use them in our attempts at communication.

1) Who are you? We should have a constantly improving idea of who we are and what we can do. That self-concept will never be fully accurate, but like our lives is a work in progress. The answer to that question emerges the widest possible range of influences. The answer includes such things as where, when and how we were born. It also looks at our cumulative lives and everything that happened to us along the way . . . our experiences. This awareness is extremely important to our futures. One of the best possible reasons for choosing our friends carefully and then maintaining those friends, because it is through them that we gain wisdom about who we are.

They won't know who we are unless someone tells them. That impacts anything and everything you say and do. In a speech for example, you must answer the question almost never asked out loud: "Why should I listen to what you have to say?" Find a way to give the folk listening the answer to that question.

2) Who do they think you are? You can add to their knowledge base by telling them directly and indirectly who you are. The kinds of experiences have you had, when and where. How you know what you know and how you learned it. In a small community many of the folk you are talking to will have "a fairly good idea" of who you are because of previous knowledge and experiences with you and folk who know you.

Now, take a look at the audience.

3) Who are they? The more you know about those to whom you are speaking the more likely you can influence what and how they think. Extremely important in this situation is information needed by the listener which they can use to allow themselves to listen and learn without being embarrassed later. After trusting themselves to listen and they have learned things they value from you, they can use the knowledge with others who will recognize the value and importance of what they have learned through listening. In other words, the listener not caught being gullible by folk they talk to because the information they have learned appears to be accurate and useful. In short, the speaker appears to them to be a trustworthy, intelligent person with specific knowledge than can be safely used. Aristotle referred this experience as ethos, or what you appear to others to be.

4) Who do they think they are? Be aware that individuals believe themselves to be bright and capable and have enough self-respect to distinguish useful from non-useful information. They "live in a free country" and have every right to think about what happened last night or what they are going to be doing later. They believe they have a right to use what you say to appear to be brighter and better informed than they really are. They believe that they are important. Treat them with respect.

Now look at the speech. A speech is information couched in terms that are easily understood and recalled by the listener. It represents the best of what you have experienced, know and recently learned about the topic. The topic is often determined by those who have requested that you address them. That is useful. Under these circumstance there is every indication that your ethos, who you appear to be, is already positive. If you speak to them using language that they are familiar with and understand, then they can listen and recall later what you have said. Your task is to make the topic easy to recall, therefore use.

Clearly then, you must know who you are addressing. Demographic data, such as age, sex, socio-economic status, etc. are useful. If you can add information which overlaps a bulk of the audience because of common knowledge and experiences, you will have bridged much of the gap.

Jumbled information isn't easy to understand or retain. Put your information into a package that seems to belong in that form. This will be a great aid to those listening and later when they are attempting to recall. In other words, organize the information in a form which fits the audience.

The listener--those who have come to hear what you have to say. Make it easy for them to feel like they are part of an enlarged conversation. Use the tone, words and phrases that a conversation would use. Watch the individuals while you are talking to them. From the look on their faces can they hear and understand you. If you are not looking at them they can't give you that information. They don't really care if you make a mistake. Fix it and move on. Don't make a federal case out of it, that certainly isn't what they want.

The more ways they can experience what you are saying the more easily it is understood and retained. Use audio-visual aids whenever possible.

If all of us were to review these ideas before we begin the process of speech preparation we would be nervous, but not dangerously fearful. Our audience would be at ease and open to ideas that they can use. Ideas and actions that are important would receive proper consideration.

No comments: