Monday, October 10, 2011


Communication Goals: Work at the pay of our choice.

As we examine important goals in our lives I think it will become clear that we all want 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.
5.  Work at the pay of our choice.

There are times that you feel at the mercy of the “system.”  There are times when you are at the mercy of the system.  But, a communication pattern that is well planned can be extremely valuable.  For example, if you really like what you do and where you live.  But, feeling pressure from family, bills and general attitudes toward your willingness to work for “peanuts” finally gets to you.  Your task becomes increasing the size of the “peanuts.” 

Like almost all successful communication campaigns, you must plan them.  Almost all of them take time to complete and that indicates that you must think about where you want to be and then how you are going to get there. 

Early on you must establish that you are the right person for the task and that you bring “real” value to your employers.  That can be indicated in a number of ways: 1) productivity, 2) problem solving, 3) willingness to step up at important times, 4) being an effective part of the your organization’s public relations image, etc.  These goals can be set into motion early in your relationship with your organization.  Remember, you can’t get hired if no one knows you exist.  Your value to the organization can’t be known unless you set into motion a plan that bring important information to your supervisor’s attention.

Having built the campaign and followed it over time, you will be in an excellent position to head in the direction of the pay of your choice.

Thursday, October 06, 2011


Communication Goals: Work at the level of our choice.

As we examine important goals in our lives I think it will become clear that we all want 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.
5.  Work at the pay of our choice.

Work at the level of our choice.  It turns out that goal is hard to achieve.  We often hear it said that individuals don’t particularly like their jobs but it pays the bills and provides for great weekends.

Several pressures are brought to bear on us as we attempt to work at the level of our choice.  One of the first pressures is almost universal:  how much money can you make being . . . an artist, doctor, contractor, carpenter, and so on?  This question goes to the heart of employment choices for many of us.  For some, job satisfaction is more important than the pay.  For others, pay is more important than job satisfaction. 

If you decide to become a park ranger, those around you might feel that “you could do so much better” as a doctor.  The pressure can be terrible.  And it comes from all sides: you feel the responsibility to care for a family, potential mates are not certain they want to work at Chaco Cultural National Park or some other assigned place, parents see their success through your life and they may have another career in mind for you. 

As you recall, we are all different.  But, some feel that they are “called” to serve their fellow man doing something that is clearly obscure to everyone around them. As those who have been “called” try to make their career decision, the pressure from loved and trusted people can be overwhelming.  Ultimately, you are the one that is going to have to live with the choice.  You are the one that will be happy, or miserable in that career.

Again, to achieve your goal there needs to be a plan.  You need to decide what you want to do.  Then you need to communicate what your chosen goal is. The thrust of your communication will be to enlist the aid of others in reaching that goal.  But, the communication campaign you create will need to cover a fairly long period of time and be consistently used.

Monday, October 03, 2011


Communication Goals: Work at the pay of our choice.

As we examine important goals in our lives I think it will become clear that we all want 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.
5.  Work at the pay of our choice.

There are times that you feel at the mercy of they “system.”  There are times when you are at the mercy of the system.  But, a communication pattern that is well planned can be extremely valuable.  For example, you really like what you do and where you live.  But, feeling pressure from family, bills and general attitudes toward your willingness to work for “peanuts” finally gets to you.  Increase the size of the peanuts. 

Like almost all successful communication campaigns, you must plan them.  Almost all of them take time to complete and that indicates that you must think about where you want to be and then how you are going to get there. 

Early on you must establish that you are the right person for the task and that you bring “real” value to your employers.  That can be indicated in a number of ways: 1) productivity, 2) problem solving, 3) willingness to step up at important times, 4) clearly an effective part of the your organization’s public relations image, etc.  These goals can be set into motion early in your relationship with your organization.  Remember, you can’t get hired if no one knows you exist.  Your value to the organization can’t be known unless you set into motion a plan that bring important information to your supervisor’s attention.

Having built the campaign and followed it over time, you will be in an excellent position to head in the direction of the pay of your choice.

Friday, September 30, 2011


If we are to be effective citizens, how are we to be able to do that under our present circumstances?

We have discussed the lack of easy access to necessary news to make it possible for us to inform ourselves.  Without an informed electorate our way of life is in danger.  Recently, in an interview with Ted Koppel, a well-known TV newsperson, underlines the danger that the current system in the USA has created for us all.  Our media now provides profits for owners by providing us with what we want to know and see.  Nobody is in the business of providing us with what we need to know.  That leaves the task up to us individually.

Take a few minutes to look at and listen to what Koppel has to say about the situation.  Listening and watching isn’t something we do to make us feel safer or better.  It is something we do to inform ourselves so that we can become part of the solution to this huge problem.



Communication Goals: Live in the community of our choice

As we examine important goals in our lives I think it will become clear that we all want 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.
5.  Work at the pay of our choice.

None of us would like to have some person or agency assign us a place to live.  Instead, what we want to do is live where we want to.  That has the best chance of happening if you are skilled at communication.  In order to live in a community we have know about the place and then have a way to support ourselves in that community.  Once we have selected the community and moved in, changes occur that may or may not suit you.  The one constant in communication is change. 

In order for any community to stay “on course”, those who live there must use their best skills to keep the community on track.  You want the best possible schools for your children, the safest movement of traffic, good clean water, etc. These things don’t just happen.  They are shaped and adopted because of the people who live there.  Since you are going to be one of them, you have responsibilities to make sure that the community succeeds.  Most communities deteriorate because they are allowed to.  The best way to destroy an effective community is to do nothing.

In this case, “doing,” means acquiring information through communication, processing the information and then attempting to apply the result to your community.  Verbal and nonverbal communications are basic to the process.  The larger the community is the greater the need for groups of people to successfully communicate.  When this coalition works there is the best possible chance that you can describe the community as successful.

(Don’t forget that throughout this community improvement process it is critical that you continue to use your communication skills to build your interpersonal relationships.  The need for that process never dies.)

Small changes in a community can drastically change the community.  For example, if those who are very influential to the maintenance of the community move away, the entire process may falter and leave the community in shambles.

Where you live will inevitably affect where you work.  This affect will influence your ability to achieve the “job of your choice.” In addition, your effectiveness in the community of your choice may affect your professional position.  It is nearly impossible to separate your life into non-overlapping units.  Keep in mind, you may be the best person for any job, but if those hiring don’t know you exist you won’t get hired.  The process of informing the world who you are never stops.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Communication Goals: Live with the person of our choice

As we examine important goals in our lives I think it will become clear that we all want 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. 
5. Work at the pay of our choice. 

As each of us has matured, we have looked around to find someone that we think would be rewarding to live with and that might be willing to live with us. We are looking for someone that we want to do everything with. It turns out, that can be a really tough job. But, it often is the underlying goal that keeps us actively searching. I view this goal as being the number one goal for most of us. We want to, "Live with the person of our choice."

Immediately we have several problems. Some choices are great from a distance and horrible up close. Some think we’re inconsequential and unimportant. Some think we’re just fine and would like to count us as friends for life. The question is, how to let them know who we are and what we want to be. How do we find out what they are “really” like and what they will be in the long run?

Communication helps us find the answers to those questions. Whether the communication is verbal or nonverbal, it is important. If we’re going to deliberately reach our goal, we are going to have to understand as much as possible about communicating. For example, we watch folk to see what kinds of things they spend their time and resources doing in hopes of understanding who they are. We listen to them because we think that they will talk about what is in their mind and what they hope to accomplish in their lifetime. These are important items if the two of you are going to be able live together.

Who we are is often a reflection of those we came from. Knowing the family then can have an impact on your actions. Knowing the culture they represent and your ability to fit into that culture is important. Agreeing on what a man or woman is can make a huge difference. Knowledge, acquired through communication is our only real hope.

Or, we could look at communication this way: everything we do or say allows others to know us. On the other side everything they do or say allows us to know them. So, the question boils down to what do you do and say when trying to make a proper presentation of who you are? You can’t control what they do or say and so it is an unbalanced situation. The best answer to this imbalance is to allow time to pass so you can get a better idea of who they are.

Basic rule: relationships are either growing or shrinking. There is no way to put them on a shelf and have them remain intact. They are improving or falling apart all the time.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


There are, of course, times when someone presents you with an impromptu topic and you have to address the question. They will happen throughout your lifetime. But, the good news is that with more life experience you will be able to handle these questions with greater ability.

On the other hand, there are those who really enjoy asking questions that are "off the cuff" for roughly the same reason surprise parties exist: to see how you handle the situation. It is true that how you handle the "situation" reveals quite a bit about who you are and how you solve problems. But, there are times when you have no desire at all to have folk "prying" around inside your brain just so they can see what makes you tick.

If you like putting your best foot forward, then you should join me in thinking that impromptu topics are extremely dangerous. Especially in such situations as job interviews, new and important relationships and important unusual situations. The question is simple: "In this situation, how can I appear to be better than I really am." The least you can hope for is, "I don't want this situation to make me appear less competent than I really am."

So, how should the impromptu situation be handled? Anticipation: thinking and planning ahead is a habit of successful people. You should be able to anticipate many impromptu topics and then prepare for the occasion. The more you can anticipate the better your chances of appearing to be "brighter and more intelligent" than you really are.

Plan (outline and rehears) the content of your response to each impromptu question you can anticipate. Know what content you will use to address the topic that appears suddenly. Don't plan the words, but instead follow the same path you would if you had ample time to prepare your address. In short, you should prepare an extemporaneous speech in which you have the content under control and you choose the words needed at the time you answer the question.

Avoid making impromptu speeches whenever possible and in place of them give appropriate extemporaneous speeches. You'll be ahead of the game.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Extemporaneous Delivery

Extemporaneous delivery is probably worth as much time as you can afford to spend on the project. By extemporaneous we mean you know what you are going to say and you have the content well in mind. You have organized the data appropriately for your listeners and when the time comes for you to speak, you choose your words while you are speaking.

Aristotle thought that between content and delivery, delivery was not nearly as important. Demosthenes on the other hand felt that delivery is critical. Personally I think that excellent content excellently delivered should be the goal. In life, you will most often be asked to speak on things about which you are well informed. Your biggest problem will be matching the audience to you and your topic. That will guide you in what to include, while you are narrowing your topic. Then the order in which you have been most successful talking to others about the topic.

Task: establish a central idea and type it across a blank page in your word processor, and save it to your desktop. Whenever you think of something that should be included in your presentation, open the document and add it. As potential main ideas occur to you, add them. As supportive material occurs to you, add them under the appropriate main idea. Out of this will grow your fairly detailed outline.

Practice: examine your materials, adjust them to fit you, your audience and the occasion. Let the rough outline sit for a time and then go over your materials and set a final version of the outline. Use that outline to build the visual materials (PowerPoint, Keynote, etc.) you will need to clearly make your points. Remember, the more ways you can simultaneously say a thing the easier it will be for your audience to understand and retain what you are saying. Remember, in the "real" world you will be asked to say to a large group things you have already been saying to individuals and small groups. You have practiced your speech. More practice won't hurt and could help.

Delivery: get to your location early, setup and test everything. Once you stand up and begin realize that there is nothing more you can do to prepare. Your only concern now is that the audience will understand and be able to recall and use what you are saying. It isn't important that you are perfect in appearance or delivery. . .only that the audience understands, can recall and use your content. You are at this point more like a missionary than anything else: only concerned about the audience.

Afterwards: what kinds of questions are asked? What might you have done to make clearer what you were trying to say. Make notes and then make repairs, because it is likely that you'll be asked to do this again fairly soon.

Don't forget to make available leave behinds. Be certain that your contact information is clearly part of the leave behind.

Friday, May 20, 2011


The body of the speech is why you are presenting a speech to an audience. The body of the speech will come primarily from your brain, that accumulation of experiences and thoughts. But to increase your effectiveness in public address you will need to spend considerable focus on your introduction.

An introduction is a multifaceted creation. It moves the members of the audience from where they are to where they must be to understand what you are going to say. It includes: 1) topic (central idea), 2) breakdown of the topic (main ideas), 3) who you are and why you can say what you're going to say, (credibility) and why and how this information will be important to them. Throughout this introduction you will be gaining their attention.

Introductions need to be short, clear and easy to follow and recall. Everything in the paragraph above can be said in a very short time. Details are eliminated and general statements will be used.

Introductions are used to tie your subject to the topic included in the body of your address. The audience then has an idea of what you are about to say and the order in which you will be saying it. In short, it quickly builds a structure which will allow them to attach information (data) to as you move through the thought process.

Introductions are so important it would probably benefit you and your audience if you actually wrote out the entire introduction word for word. That will help you to see the strengths and weaknesses of the introduction before you stand before your audience.

This same process will aid you in your conversational practices. You will correctly analyze what the other person is going to need to understand what you are about to say.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Is it necessary? Yes, for most of us. It helps us to analyze the interface between the audience and the speaker. It helps us identify weakn in the presentation and it aids the listeners in recalling what was said. It is essential for preparation of visual aids such as PowerPoint of Keynote. Yes, it is necessary.

On the internet you will find many examples of standard outlining format but here is one that you may find useful.

Here is another method that will work until you learn and master the outlining form that a bulk of instructors in the educational system prefer.

Central Idea (a single declarative sentence in simple concrete words.)

Main Idea (one of the parts of the Central Idea)
Support (data that supports this Main Idea)

Main Idea (another part of the Central Idea)
Support (data that supports this Main Idea)

Main Idea (another part of the Central Idea)
Support (data that supports this Main Idea)

This method of outlining has worked for some folk for years. It is simple and straight forward, but not as elegant as the standard outlining format taught by most language teachers. Use this suggestion for now and when the time comes to learn what your high school English teacher was trying to teach you, learn the standard outlining format because you want to.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Are You Ready?

That's a key question many times everyday. In public address it is key to controlling speaker anxiety (stage fright.) If you know what the goal is and you've explained this others before, and you have a pretty good idea who you're talking to, you've gone a long ways to a less fearful presentation.

Goal: what do I want them to be able to do or think when my presentation is finished?
Practice: I have explained this to others several times and have a pretty good idea of how it should be done.
Audience: I've know this audience pretty well, and I've talked to them in other circumstances before successfully.

Now you've got an excellent start on being ready. That is going to help a great deal when you are standing before them and trying to make sense.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Why Groups?

There are several reasons.
1) Groups are often more creative in less time because of multiple brains working on the problem.
2) What one person doesn't find clear and easily understood, one or more of the others may.
3) When you understand the action of the group you are more comfortable with the outcome and very likely more supportive.
4) The accumulated experience in several individuals provides more data and understanding than is possible in an individual.

For these and many other reasons, businesses are looking for employees that can communicate well and work together in groups to solve problems as quickly and effectively as possible.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Things Done Together

There are many things that we can and should do by ourselves. But, much of today's chores are best done by groups of people. In sports, a fully cooperative team with talented players often leads to a winning combination. In business a group of associates that are cooperatively working toward a shared goal often leads to winning.

Anything we can learn that will improve the chances that we will be effective team/group members should be used. Organizations of all kinds are looking for people who can turn their average groups into winning groups. Your contributions in this area will aid you in getting the job, and maintaining it. Group participation has become one of the most effective tools of the business community. More can be accomplished by an effective group than an individual can accomplish alone. “Many hands make light work," John Heywood wrote in the 1500's. It isn't a new idea, but it has become important once again.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Follow the Data

I am impressed again by the signal sent to the world by news media. For the past couple of weeks an increasing amount of time has been spent in the "news" reporting on the "birther" issue. A recent New York Times editorial talks about the "embarassment." The reports didn't repeat the knowledge that has always been available, that President Obama was indeed born in Hawaii.

More recently the impending royal wedding in London has become the focus. In a world impacted by unwise and illegal activities involving money, with wars being waged, storms tearing us apart, a huge recession and an important budget, we read, see and hear about the London wedding. Interesting and fun to watch, hear and read about. But when our news gathering agencies devote an inordinate amount of time and energy on this topic you can't help but notice. The emphasis is not on "informing the public" but instead in creating and maintaining the largest possible audience for purposes of profit.

Profits have been winning now for several years. Information is what is needed. That leaves us providing for ourselves in information. We have access to plenty of entertainment.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Self Disclosure

Self disclosure is important. The only way others have a hope of understanding who you are is if you tell/show them. There are cultural problems with self disclosure. If you share a well worded, honest evaluation of your excellent skills to an acquaintance they may very well think, "What a braggart." But, if it is important that they understand who you are, then you should be free to tell them.

A key issue with personal evaluations, from your point of view, is when they are very good, the person listening may label you a braggart. After all, Mom always warned us not to brag. If you were an athlete and a walk-on, the primary way the coach is going to decide to "waste" some of his time on you is by what you say. He then will ask you to back up what you've said by performing certain basic activities. Verbal gets you into the possibility of joining the team and nonverbal gets you the position on the team.

We have to learn by practicing what others will allow us to say about ourselves comfortably. They may think or even say, "They are no better than they think they are. On the other hand, they are very good." Bragging? No, an accurate report of personal capabilities. But, the important thing is the opinion they will have after your personal evaluation. Your analysis of what they will do with what you say is critical.

In the business world we expect folk to give us a clear idea of who they think they are. Due to the number of abuses, resumes no longer carry the clout they once did when it was expected that you would at least tell the truth. Even in this world, the verbal is the primary method of opening doors and it is your ability to perform that will get and keep the job.

People around you need to know "who you are" and you are in the best position to tell them. Practice informing others of what and who you are. Become skilled at the process. Then add reciprocity to the process. Practice sharing small amounts of information about yourself and then encouraging others to share a small amount about themselves. After all, if you don't know how they mean, how can you respond effectively?

What should not be said? Certainly early on in the "get acquainted process" you should avoid talking about the dark side of your being. In fact, the appropriate inclusion of some of the dark things that you think, might be better kept to yourself. Be positive and willing to share and learn. Most of us are looking for people like that, so that we can select and build a circle of friends.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Relationships Happen

Beebe, Beebe and Ivy, in their book Communication: Principle for a Lifetime, there is mention of two important concepts: 1) relationships of circumstance and 2) relationships of choice. Like so many things in life both concepts may be present in any situation, but it pays us to note the strengths and weaknesses of both.

Relationships of circumstance are common and may be very important. For example, two students are taking essentially the same courses in college that lead to the same professional capabilities. They actually take some of those classes together on a regular basis. Each notes the others existence, but nothing special catches their attention. Both are busy and have little time for any distractions. But as the year moves along each notices that they enjoy group class activities that includes the other.

After a while they agree that it would be mutually beneficial if they worked together in one of their classes. Each slowly became aware that when the other couldn't make it to the work sessions there seemed to be something missing from their personal as well as their professional life. They found that there were multiple levels in meaning of the phrase, "I missed you."

These two have found the strength of relationships of circumstance. They found someone with shared interests and goals with whom they could feel comfortable. This sort of relationship could easily move into something long-term and close. Good: because it builds on the person (brain) of the other and that tends to be less transitory. Bad: because over a life time you will probably be working closely with a number of people (brains.) One must be ready to make personal ethical judgments about these relationships.

Relationships of choice
are different. You don't simply become aware of the other, you actually seek the other out. There are inherent risks here. Should you be feeling very lonely, you might choose a person who will simply fill the void. Once you have rid yourself of the feeling of loneliness you may no longer see any particular reason to maintain the relationship.

Another possibility is that you seek someone out because it would be a "feather in your cap" if they were willing to be seen with and spend time with you. You didn't really give two hoots about them as individuals (brains) but instead used them to prove your "worth" to others. This clearly involves personal ethical decisions. People aren't objects to be collected, stored, given or thrown away.

An additional risk is that you visualize yourself "living forever after" with someone of great personal attractiveness. If and when they lose their attractiveness there may not seem to be sufficient reason to maintain the relationship. It is likely that there are a couple of considerations in establishing such a relationship: "I'll be able to reshape them into what I need," or "I can put up with what they lack, say or do because they are so physically attractive." Neither of those ideas hold up when you are dealing with a significant other. That would be a recipe for pain.

It should be clear that I think some of the better long-term relationships are built on relationships of circumstance rather than choice. Both circumstance and choice are involved at some level in most choices. Thinking about the entire process in advance might not be natural to humans, but it might very well save us all some grief. Decisions about relationships are complicated and merits our full attention.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Listening: Key To Life

Much of the time we confuse hearing and listening. They are different. Hearing is something that many of us can do with varying capabilities. Some need hearing aids and some can hear sounds that are well in excess of the "normal range." Almost none of us are willing to concede that our hearing is something that we should always protect. Aging robs even those who can hear well. How well you can hear makes a difference. If you can't hear the subtleties of pronunciation then you can't include them in your conversation. If those subtleties are necessary for the proper understanding of what you are saying, then you have a problem.

Listening is much more complicated. It includes the attributes of hearing and much more. As mentioned in the book "Communication: Principles for a Lifetime," listening involves such things as:
1. Selecting certain stimuli out of all the stimuli around us. Not only what is apparently being "said" but how it is being "said."
2. Focusing on a particular stimulus or message. The ability to block out stimuli while paying careful attention to specific stimuli.
3. Assigning meaning to messages. Your meaning, of course, but more importantly what "they" mean.
4. Recalling information(stimuli)that has been communicated. There are barriers here that are often ignored.
5. Responding or confirming your understanding of a message. Now you're in a position to "say" something.

The barriers need some thought. There are many and here is a brief list.
1. Rest: the ability to concentrate on everything that is being "said" verbally and non-verbally over a period of time takes energy. After long periods of listening you really should be tired. Don't confuse physical and mental exercise. They both require effort.
2. Health: clearly, if you are sick, concentration is not a reasonable expectation. All you really want to do is get well, then maybe you can concentrate.
3. Physical fitness: in order to have a reserve of energy you must be physically fit and able to think and concentrate over a period of time.
4. Freedom from stress: if you're having personal problems anywhere in your life it makes listening a very difficult task.
5. Drug free: legal or not, anything that affects your abilities think, focus, recall and respond to what is being "said" will get in the way.

Listening is not simple or easy. The more we know about it the better the chances are that we will be able to listen. The question is, "To whom are we listening?" The list is really long, but some that may hit close to home are: children, spouse, parents, grand-parents, friends, fellow employees, supervisors, officials of all kinds and the list goes on.

Listening is central in many ways to being able to reach your personal goals. In addition, those who can listen well are able to help those around them making improvements to the lives of those around them. Listening is really important.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

We Are Indebted

We are indebted to those who have gone before us. It is tempting to imagine that our accomplishments are our own, but in fact they are not. We use tools, intellectual and physical, created and used by those who have gone before us. In fact is is as if we are standing "on the shoulder of giants"

The more we learn from those who gone before the higher we stand on mighty shoulders. We can think thoughts that they have made possible and we can take actions that would have been impossible for them thanks to them. History studied gives us and those we serve an edge because we can think thoughts we all need now and in the near future.

When we refuse to learn from history we are simply standing lower in the universe of ideas and have further to climb to get where we could have been. Not to know and give credit to those whose "conversations" we have shared with those who went before us means we will be forced to muddle through many of the same situations they have already conquered. George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

When preparing your communication, look back, hold a "conversation" with those who have gone before. Stand on their shoulders, the view is great. And you will be far better prepared to help those you serve everyday.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Debate Presupposes Data & It's Discussion

What we have in American politics today is power and it's manipulation. To actually consider data and the possible impact of that data is no longer really a serious consideration. This is available to everyone who needs proof.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Discussion, Debate and Persuasion

One of the things that we see and hear going on in Congress can best be described as noise. Each person in the "fight" to solve the United States "problems" defines their goals and terms in their own way. Many of the others in the "fight" are doing the same thing. So when citizens listen to the "noise" they have a strong tendency to hear those that appear to agree with their personal goals. Understandable.

On the other hand, this type of discussion/debate can never be resolved without the concentration of power on a single solution and that solution simply crushes all other solutions. Unfortunately, we've all be taught that might doesn't necessarily make right. And so power isn't as valuable to us as discussion/debate. After all, President Lincoln impressed on us the idea that what we have is ". . .government of the people, by the people, for the people. . ."

Paul Krugman in a piece titled, Willie Sutton Wept, does an excellent job of describing our situation today. Instead, what we appear to have in the United States today is power politics. Krugman wrote, "The bottom line, then, is that while the budget is all over the news, we’re not having a real debate; it’s all sound, fury, and posturing, telling us a lot about the cynicism of politicians but signifying nothing in terms of actual deficit reduction. And we shouldn’t indulge those politicians by pretending otherwise."

We can't fix what they're doing in Congress, but we can resolve not to do the same thing ourselves. We can learn how to conduct civil discourse with the goal in mind of resolving important issues for the best overall outcome for all of us.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Conclusions Need To Be Planned

Just like the rest of any speech, you need a plan to finish it. Like almost all successful efforts, you need to prepare, practice and believe in your conclusion. There are several elements that should be included in your conclusion.

1. Remind them of your credibility.
2. Remind them of the importance of your topic to them.
3. Go over the main points of the speech.
4. Create some memorable device that will help them retain what you've said.

There are many places on the internet that can aid you in constructing a plan for your conclusion. The link included here is merely one example. The greater the care and preparation the more likely your address will succeed.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Violent Speech

Should we indulge our feelings and use "violent speech" or are there real risks attached to what we say in general. The recent shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and 6 others who were shot dead in Tucson, Arizona has raised the debate yet again about "free speech" and "independent acts" of violence.

If you would take the time to read a statement made during a campaign speech in Milwaukee, Wis., October, 14, 1912, you can see what Colonal Theodore Roosevelt felt was the cause of his misery. From the beginning of this speech you will realize that Roosevelt was remarkable. The things he said were not merely a reaction to being shot in the chest, but well thought out. He said, "Now, I do not know who he was or what he represented. He was a coward. He stood in the darkness in the crowd around the automobile and when they cheered me, and I got up to bow, he stepped forward and shot me in the darkness."

Then Roosevelt added, "Now, friends, of course, I do not know, as I say, anything about him; but it is a very natural thing that weak and vicious minds should be inflamed to acts of violence by the kind of awful mendacity and abuse that have been heaped upon me for the last three months by the papers in the interest of not only Mr. Debs but of Mr. Wilson and Mr. Taft."

There is much discussion still about "free speech" and our rights to say things because we believe that they are true. But, because we live in a world that has a wide variety of us living in it, perhaps we should take more time to consider the possible outcomes of what we advocate. Stirring the pot may very well produce far more than we had anticipated.

In addition, when we think violent thoughts, a bulk of the time we have enough control to avoid acting on those thoughts. But, I think it is only reasonable to examine ourselves and what has caused us to even think those violent thoughts in the first place. I certainly isn't our job to set free ideas that "we hope" will catch fire in some other person's mind so that the outcome is what we hoped and we don't find ourselves punished. Free expression is better used to solve the problems we face in the least harmful way possible.

In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, through his character Mark Antony he demonstrates what words can do deliberately, while appearing to do something quite different. Being clever is difficult, but being clever while doing no harm may be far more difficult.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Where To Begin

Introductions are important. That's where we should begin. Think about the challenges that face you. In the first few seconds you and I decide whether to listen or escape into our own private world. What can the person trying to gain and hold your attention do that? Here are some questions that will help.

1. Who am I? What are my strengths and weaknesses? What do I know and how prepared for this communication am I?

2. Who do they think I am?
What do they already know about me and my topic? How much knowledge do I have and how important is it to them to listen?

3. The plan:
how do I frame the context for the communication? Why would they want to know what I know and am about to share? How can I tie my topic to their interests? What things are most people interested in and want to know more about?

4. How can tie the important points I'm about to share in the shortest possible time? Should I use statistics, examples, photos, short stories or something more personal such as, popularity, jobs, money?

5. Have I spelled out in words just what my plan is to move the audience from a room full of separate individuals into a cohesive group of people who want you to "tell them" what you know so they can know it too.

All of us would be more effective if we followed the ideas listed above. Think before you speak is valuable advice for all occasions. A few moments here can spare us all several moments of embarrassment.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thoughts On Togetherness

We appear to be living in an age where "standing for something" is even more important than getting along with those around us. In fact, it is so important that we may not even allow ourselves to consider "their ideas" because we already know that "they are wrong."

There are some real risks in taking that position. One obvious on is the very real possibility that we are wrong. Another is that we spend our establishing the "fact" that we are right and the other is "wrong" that we never spend any time on the problem at hand.

Coming from a completely different position in the universe is this YouTube presentation that indicates that no matter how much of an individual you are, there maybe some real advantages in working together as a group. And of course that involves some important understandings of human communication.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Delivery Check List (Revisited)

1) Have I properly prepared for this presentation? Have I analyzed the audience? Do I know the location of the presentation? Do I have the proper presentation equipment? Do I have material related to both the topic and the audience allowing them to value what I'm going to share with them?

2) Who do they think I am? Do they know me, if not what will I provide for them about me?

3) What can I say non-verbally that will provide them context? How do they think I should dress? What language and demeanor do they expect? What appearance will be most effective?

4) Can they hear and see me easily? Is a public address system needed? Is the lighting ideal?

5) How can I use my presentational aids, voice and body to guide them through my presentation? Should I have a computer driven presentation? How can I use my voice to emphasize and direct attention?

6) Do I seem to be enthusiastic and informed about my presentation?

7) Would I notice if some in the audience couldn't hear, see or understand what is being presented?

8) What questions, if any were asked during and after the presentation? How will these questions affect my next presentation? Did they understand my content? Are they considering changing their position?

9) Did I need leave behind materials? How will they be distributed? How many will be needed? Do the materials have appropriate contact information?

(This first appeared in May, 2010.)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Informative Speech

Here's an example of what at least one student did with the assignment: Informative Speech. Take a look and listen to what the student elected to do and how they did it. It isn't an example of the perfect speech, but rather how someone with an assignment solved the problem. Remember that every person and all audiences are unique. That doesn't address the assignment. Just view and see what ideas you might be able to use when you are completing your assignment.

Give This A Weeklong Trial

Get rested, resolve as many of your personal conflicts as possible, resolve not to correct the people around you in any way and then set out to learn what makes those you come in contact with think the way they do. This is a tough assignment. You'll be tempted to think/say, "in light of this, how can you possibly believe that?" Instead, do the hard thing: listen and learn.

You'll not understand things and be forced to ask questions. Do your best to keep them as neutral (non-judgmental) as possible. For example: "By that do you mean. . .?" Or "When you say good, how might you say that in another way?" See the world from their point of view if possible. Your opinion about their position probably won't change anything anyway, so keep it to yourself. At best, they might allow you to have "your own opinion," but not agree with it. At worst, once you have expressed yourself they might write you and your ideas off. Now how will you be able to relate to them?

After you've done this for a week, re-examine yourself and your positions. They will probably be intact. On the other hand, you may have, for the first time ever, found some areas of agreement with the other person and better understand how you can successfully communicate with them. It would be a great aid if you would also attempt to travel with them, doing the things that they do. If not with them, doing what they do in an attempt to better understand.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Here's The Situation

The genes from our parents are united in our creation. Those genes are arranged in a way that is unique to us. That creates a person whose abilities physical and mental are bound to be different from all others. This presents us with a dilemma. In spite of the fact that we are similar to others in many ways, we are also different from others. Without a long term detailed, and time consuming inventory, we have no real idea of where the similarities and differences are.

This make it difficult to safely use phrases such as: "I know what you mean." When we say, "This really tastes good and you'll love it," we have made a high risk statement. And added to this problem is the fact that we build our own world through contact with things outside our skins. Those worlds are different.

Now think how difficult the task is to communicate with those around us, especially those we would like to be close to or work with/for. In order to build communities we gather in groups and hammer out ideas such as democracy or free speech. Those ideas have no real referent in the physical world. That makes them abstract. Abstracts, since they have no reference that can be touched, smelled or measured thus proving their existence, must be thoroughly examined, discussed and tested by most, if not all the community, in order to make it work.

Making the whole situation even more difficult is the fact that we all change over time. The changes, due to the new and different experiences that impact us, cause us to view the familiar in new and different ways. These changes over time makes it increasingly important that we never think that we have "finally settled that matter once and for all." Not unlike the student that says, "When I've finished this degree program I'm finished with school."

The whole area of human communication merits our complete and continuing attention. It is and should be one of the most consuming activities we attempt. The next time someone one, anyone, suggests that communication is simple, you are in the presence of someone doesn't understand communication.