Monday, December 03, 2012

It Makes A Difference

Here is another TED Talk that deals with nonverbal communication and its impact on you as well as others.  It is worth your time and focus.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


The Problem

There is a general feeling that clever people who know "the tricks" can persuade a person to do almost anything.  The odd part is, that we ourselves do not feel that we can persuade anybody to do anything.  We feel weak and powerless.  If this is how you feel, then a change in point-of-view may be in order: view yourself from a positive point-of-view. Think about persuasion this way.  When was the last time someone actually "persuaded" you to do something you really didn't want to do?  Let's say you did change your behavior.  Did you resolve in your mind to reform your life?  Or, more likely, did you act as if you were changed, but at the earliest opportunity you continued to do what you wanted to do? What if you are the one expected to persuade others?

There are times when all of us want to be able to change the world.  Sometimes an assignment from your boss requires that there must be changes and you were chosen to "make the changes happen." In order to do that, we have to change people.  Once the assignment has been accepted what should be happening to your thought patterns.

The intent of the following is a short guide to use when you have been assigned to "persuade your clients" to make a change. This is not a simple assignment, and your boss wants results. When we attempt to change people we run into some massive problems.  Here are some things to consider.

We Are Built Over Time

Most of us have positions which we have developed over time. These positions seem to work for us and those that we travel with are often in agreement.  Indeed, those we travel with us helped to create and maintain those positions. We learn things and use them.  We learned them in the past and we use them currently.  So we have a tendency to "live in the past."

When faced with a problem it might require that we change our positions in order to solve the current problems.  But, the impact of that change can be huge.  It may require rebuilding whole sections of our position and when we are done, we may not be happy.  That makes changes hard for all of us.  We discover, compare, become uncomfortable with our old position and reluctantly make changes to our carefully constructed positions.

In addition, those we travel with are accustomed to us and our positions. Since they helped to build and maintain our positions they may share a great deal with us.  When we alter our positions that may not be comfortable for them.  That may cause them to change their behavior toward us and now they will very likely make us uncomfortable as well. These changes can affect every aspect of your life.  If positions are working now, why take a chance and make changes.  Because as conditions change or we become aware of conditions which do not fit our solutions, we are forced to adjust. With these thoughts in mind, let's show a little respect for any and all attempts to change those around us.

What Are Positions?

When discussing positions they usually fall into these categories: attitudes, beliefs, values and behaviors. Moms and dads lay the foundation for most of them.  Life experiences and other people tend to round out these positions over time. Educational institutions tend to fill in gaps and round out what moms and dads are doing and have done.

We are often very upset when any of our positions must be altered. The key word there is "we." We do the changing and others often take the credit or the blame.  But change happens.  Given that we do the changing and you want me to change what can you do or say that will change me. We are not blank slates waiting for someone or something to write on, we come with answers to questions built in. Instead, as Jonah Lehrer says in Why We Don't Believe in Science, "we come equipped with all sorts of naive intuitions about the world, many of which are untrue."

When anyone tries to change you they are doing something that may be, and in fact is likely unwelcome. Lehrer reports that; "This means that science education is not simply a matter of learning new theories. Rather, it also requires that students unlearn their instincts, shedding false beliefs the way a snake sheds its old skin."  

Why Change

A question we might be expected to ask is, "What reason do I have to believe that my parents are stupid and that they have lied to me in my youth?" And internal status is much more than parents and family.  It is all those people with whom we have been traveling.  There is a great deal we have come to "understand and believe" over the years. When you begin the process of "position change" it isn't only what you do to yourself, but what others will think of you since they may not be making the same change. As a result, not changing your position is easier than making the change.

Stable attitudes, beliefs, values and behaviors are desirable and useful to society and to us.  When those elements shift a great deal of adjustment is required by all involved.  Things are said: "We haven't done much with the Smiths lately.  They're off trying out some harebrained ideas." "I haven't talked to Bob in months.  He's gone off the deep end politically."  "I would love to have them over, but I don't know what they can or can't eat." "I don't know what's going on there.  I don't think he even goes to church anymore."

So, if your assignment is, "Persuade them that this is the most desirable course of action for everyone," you may be in for a difficult time. What should you do?  First, acquire data.  In fact we all should create a data mining process that will expose us to pivotal data.  That can't come from a single source, such as a network, newspaper, person or book. Make it generally agreed upon dependable sources. Look at the news about the United States as published in several foreign newspapers, for example. Don't depend on MSNBC or Fox to tell you what is going on here. The data alone may be enough to start the process of change.  

Data Should Be the Key

Present the data in clear, easy to recall packages that have immediate application. Use critical thinking in the arrangement of the data and its presentation.

Critical thinking: "Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness." 

Two of these terms carry heavy loads: reasoning and communication.  When you have someone's attention you need to supply data and in a reasonable way.  Good data poorly reasoned is ignorable.  Good data well reasoned and delivered is valued and remembered. Good data, well reasoned and carefully organized is easier to follow and recall.  Now those you seek to change can use what you have supplied to make changes in their position.

What To Do

If your presentation does not ask for a position change, you are probably making an instructional/informational presentation. If the position change requested can be avoided by your audience or you, it will be thought of as an option: interesting but not worthy of a change in course. At this point your temptation will be to think of "them" as being stubborn, ignorant, unwilling to change and controlled by the status quo. Keep in mind that you have likely been working on changes in your own positions and you  don't think of yourself in those terms. 

Here are some ideas that should help you during the process of attempting to change people. First, who are you?  Know yourself.  Examine your position and how it came to be. Understand it's usefulness and drawbacks. Balance fact and belief based positions and sort out those that are fact based. (There is no suggestion here that beliefs are not valuable.  They are, but often they are not fact based.) Do you hold positions with which you are currently uncomfortable? Ask your yourself why you haven't changed your position and what it would take to make you change.  When you have managed to make the change does your original position make it's presence known in various ways? Do you feel free and easy with the new position in all circumstances? If not, what would it take to be free of the old position and wholly unconcerned about the new position?

Second, who do "they" think I am?  Do they know you and if so within what context. Do they think you can reliably supply useful data that they can trust and use? What do they believe your motive to be?

Third, who are" they"?  Do they feel the "need" for change? Are they comfortable with their position and feel balanced? Are they curious and driven by the need to push back ignorance? If not, then you may be attempting to affect change while they are merely curious. Not even careful scientists are able to always push back ignorance and often finding themselves defending positions they hope are true.

Fourth, who do they think they are?  Do they "know that they are right" and have a comfortable widely accepted position?  Do they already "know" and feel little or no need to gather more data?  If that is their position, You have almost no chance to aid them in making position changes. Probably the safest thing to do is create a feeling of "unbalance" with their current position so that they will listen and look for a way to resolve the feeling of unbalance.

If you have no choice and must continue the attempt to aid "them" to make a change in their position there may be some things possible. First, find a way to catch and hold their attention.  Second, establish your credibility or believability.  Let them know that you can actually be trusted to provide what they will need to make safe and dependable position changes. Third, create conflict between the data they are learning and hopefully trusting and the position they currently hold. That would be the unbalance that they will need to resolve. Show them a way to resolve the conflict quickly, properly and effectively with a minimum of damage to their current position and this will help them to regain their balance. Make the data as easy to store and recall as possible.

Fourth, suggest solutions to problems that will naturally arise as a result of their position change. Remember, those problems will be both internal and external.  If the conflict you create is too great they may just ignore your data.  If it seems to be resolvable, then they may suppress the old position leaving the new position in a dominate position.

Do not attempt to expunge the old position. In any case, they won't be able to do that, but they might be able to live comfortably eventually with the new position. Don't attempt to prove you are "right." That means that they and all their friends and relatives are "wrong" and that may be just too much.  Instead, encourage them to view the data as being the most important element.  Encourage them to gather even more data than you have presented and to accept the fact that positions should be processes, not fixed truths. Admit to them that life is a process and that processes mean change and since it is inevitable constantly digging data and using critical thought is the best hope for us all.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Technology and the Future

Communication, we've all heard, is really important. "Andrew McAfee studies the ways that information technology (IT) affects businesses, business as a whole, and the larger society." In this TED Talk, which is short, very informative and humorous, he is looking into the future from the point of view that technology may be taking our jobs from us.  The answer is, of course, technology is taking away our jobs and that is going to continue into the future.  We just don't know what the impact might be in the long run.  This presentation may help to focus on the important things around us.

People and Brains

We've discussed the fact that people are first of all brains, and everything else is added to that over time.  Slowly science is gaining insights into what the brain is doing and why and this TED Talk is particularly interesting and will add to your insight into how brains, yours and others, seem to work.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Tools You Should Use

Your boss has the job of keeping things in balance.  That simply means that his/her job is to maintain or control the costs of doing business.  You, as an employee, are one of the costs of doing business.  If you want a raise and the response is "that is not in the budget now," you should assume that is normal.  How can you change that reaction?

If your boss asks you to speak somewhere as a representative of the business you should do it.  Prepare, accept the confidence placed in you, provide a "leave behind" for your audience and provide your audience with something they need and that they can use.  When you are finished, allow them to pick up your "leave behind," which should include copies of the slides you used and a cover sheet that contains your contact information. 

When the audience returns to their work place they may provide to human resources or their boss the name, or names of folk that might make good additions to the business.  If you in turn are asked to consider a position in another business, they may offer you more in total value than you are currently getting.  If they do, because of the cover sheet (networking) you have an option that you can use to "allow" your boss to counter and therefore provide you with the raise that otherwise you would never have been offered.  That's what we mean when we say, "Work at the pay of your choice."

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Stage Fright

It is generally agreed that we all prone stage fright.  That it has an impact on us is clear. We have a tendency to rank it very high among life's concerns.  Yet, without clearly coordinated efforts people accomplish so much less.  Human beings have been able to accomplish so much because they have found ways to work together. One of the best methods for us to join forces with one another is through spoken communication.  Speeches are common, because the message is delivered to many at one time, and they can be powerful.  Here are a few links that may be useful to you.

First, a short, helpful and clear article by Olivia Mitchell about "5 tips for overcoming stage fright."
Mitchell points out that the point of the speech is the audience.  The sooner we learn and practice that the better off we will be. 

Second, a Forbes article written for those in the business community who also experience stage fright.  The title, "How can I get over stage fright," should assure you that this is something that we all have in common.

Third, a slightly longer piece that looks at stage fright from a different point of view.  Gary Guwe points out that we all want to be over those elements of stage fright that make us less effective in the world we live in.  The article, "Fear Busters--10 Tips to Overcome Stage Fright," won't take much time and it will add to your understanding that stage fright is common and folk just like us learn ways to overcome its problems.

Here is another point of view to aid you in working through stage fright. Imagine that you are a missionary.  You have a message to deliver and you are absolutely convinced that this message is of great importance to others as it has been to you.  You are willing to risk everything to get that message to those people.  It never occurs to you that you might make a mistake in the process or even die. The message is so important that everything else fades in comparison.  How you look, grammatical errors that you make, mispronunciations or any other mistake you might make are clearly unimportant.  All that is important is the message you are compelled to share. 

If you have the mind set of the missionary, there won't be much concern for yourself and a huge concern for the audience.  That is a very strong position to have when you are standing up in front of an audience. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Check It Out Before Using It

This is better late than never.  Life isn't easy or simple.  We have to think and work much of our time to avoid making even simple errors.  Here are some tools to help us avoid pitfalls.  This information is available many places and what reminded me most recently was an article in The Costco Connection: "Won't get fooled again."

Even if you think that you are correct. . .take the time to check it out before you use it.  Here are some ways to do that.

1.  The University of Pennsylvania carefully examines statements that are being presented as if they are true.  They can aid you in this sorting process.

2.  The foundation owned and operated newspaper, The Tampa Bay Times won a Pulitzer Prize for its examination of claims and they share with everyone.  http://www.politifact,com

3.  The Washington Post attempts to check information they come in contact with and they share with everyone.

4.  The New York Times checks out claims and points out those that mislead.

5.  This site debunks myths.  Really valuable.  http://www.snopes.com

6.  If you're looking for candidates that reflect what you believe, this is your tool.  http://www.votesmart.org

There are those that say we shouldn't trust the main stream media.  They are not incorrect, but they don't go far enough.  Trust what your efforts to exercise critical thinking produces.  These tools should make your job quicker and easier.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Nonverbal Communicaiton

Recently, I was reviewing some of the things published in 2008.  This brief discussion of nonverbal communication fits our situation today just fine.  In all honesty we should spend far more time paying attention to what we are saying to others all the time with our nonverbal behavior.  The other side of the coin, we should make steady progress in improving our skills at understanding the nonverbal communication of those around us. When applied to our interpersonal relationships it should occur to us that our meaning maybe/is different from those around us.
"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 and 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? And keep in mind, time is part of nonverbal communication.  How are you making use of it to underscore what you intend to say to those you love, or even work for?

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Communication Defined: a beginning

 This is not an easy definition. It appears to be an easy definition and that is one of the biggest problems we have to face. Outstanding minds have wrestled with this problem for years. This is what George Bernard Shaw had to say about it.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

There is some sort of expectation involved in the communication process. "I said it and I expected them to . . ." and here you can fill in your own thought. When you ask for something concrete like, "Please pass the salt," and you get the salt you have evidence that something took place: communication. What about areas that are distant or more abstract and what you expected doesn't happen. Then the assumption is that communication didn't occur.

Shaw's observation is very evident every day in most of our lives. We assume that what we have said is understood in the way we intended and that certain specific result will occur. When things don’t turn out the way we expected them to, we assume that there has been a failure to communicate.

If you have power and authority and you "know you are perfectly clear" in your communication then you risk the assumption that communication has taken place. That can lead to fights, hurt feelings, war, and lots of negative things. Be cautious about assumptions and don't allow illusions to mess up your life.

Unfortunately, communication occurs.  In fact, we cannot not communicate.  We communicate all the time.  Our communication is evaluated all the time.  It is not possible to avoid communicating and there is a reaction . . .even if we are unaware of it.  What we would really like is that when we attempt communication, we always get the intended result. 

If we define communication as “the perfect reproduction of your idea in another mind,” that is impossible. Everything about us was created by the sum of all our heredity and environment and since those vary from person to person, not even the words we use will have identical meanings.

This presents us with a difficult task. Since our experiences and language do not completely overlap, even in the closest of relationships, we need to take special precautions during our communication attempts. Put another way: say it over and over again using different words and actions. After a period of time they will begin to understand what you mean when you say, "I love you."

On the other side, if you really want to hear "I love you" from that special person your temptation will be to apply your meaning of those words to what they have said. Take it easy and slow down. Determine over time what the word love means to them. If we would take the time to experience how the other person means in general, we would have a much better idea of what they are actually saying.

This puts "whirlwind" relationships of all kinds in to a safe perspective. Move, but move with caution and many words and actions. That way you will have a better idea of who they are and they will have a better idea of who you are.

In their book, Communication: Principles for a lifetime, Beebe, Beebe and Ivy provided a workable definition for communication. “ . . .communication is the process of acting on information." You know something and you share it with someone. They hear what you say and they act on it in some way. Those of us who are effective think about our communications so that we can achieve our goals.

With such a broad definition you have to believe that the whole subject of communication must be very broad indeed. It is. Everything that you do and much of what you choose not to do is used by others determine something about who you are and what you stand for. We often try to deny that we can be so easily read, but the fact is that we read others just as well and move in their direction if what we see is congenial. So we say that communication is inescapable. In addition, it is irreversible. Once the idea is planted in another mind, there is nothing short of trauma that can remove it. That's why our mothers told us to always "put your best foot forward."

When you combine several elements of communication together, such as email, phone calls, observed actions, the impact of the communication becomes very complicated. Our communication, intended or not, takes on a life of its own and we are largely powerless to amend it. It is irreversible.

Communication should take up a very large portion of our energy everyday. It is the basic tool with which we build our lives and professions. Done carefully it will greatly aid us in achieving our goals. Done poorly, we will find ourselves saying things like, "I don't know what she sees in him? I'm at least as capable as he is."

Communication is the creation of an idea that is in your mind, in the mind(s) of others. This definition is one that we will follow.  It is general and so is communication.  It implies process and so does communication.  It implies intent and so does communication. It implies context and so does communication. 

General: anything and everything that can be used to communicate impacts the effectiveness of the message. One of the most important is time and its impact on the message.

  Process: you bring your current position in life to the message and so does the recipient.  These positions are constantly shifting and changing which impacts the message.

Intent: is likely to be persuasive.  I want you to like me, trust me, travel with me, live with me, etc.  Unbiased information for its own sake is extremely difficult. This is one of many limitations human beings have.

Context: you were conceived, born, raised in a family, in a community, during specific time periods and those all differ from other person’s backgrounds. This impacts culture, language, experiences and life in general. 

Communication merits much of our attention all our lives.  It should not be relegated to some little visited area of our mind unless we are forced to give a speech or introduce someone.

 (Much of the content of this blog appeared in September of 2010.)

Thursday, March 01, 2012


Oddly enough, many of the things that you would include in your introductions should be included in your conclusions.  Both introductions and conclusions should be brief, compared to the body of the speech, which is the main reason you are speaking. The things listed as being important in your introductions are important in your conclusions.

1.  Who am I?
2.  Who are they?
3.  Why should they care?
4.  What kind of "map" will the audience need?
5.  How can more senses be involved?
6.  What will aid their recall?

Who am I?  Who you are establishes what you can say.  If you are well known and trusted you have high credibility.  In the areas you are well known and trusted your audience will "allow" you to say a great deal, especially if they wanted to know about it.  If you have been successful at doing things your credibility will be high in those areas of your success.  Again, if your audience wants to know about those things they will be able to listen better as well as retain what you have said.  In large part, they attend because they wanted to know and you could dependably tell them what they wanted to know.

Who are they? If your audience has a need to know what you know and the background to understand what you're saying, you have an excellent opportunity to have a successful communication.  If they have known weaknesses then you need to consider those when delivering the body of the speech and touch on them in your conclusion.  If the material can be summarized quickly with yet another interpretation it would be useful in the conclusion.

Why should they care?  Because, as you will briefly summarize, what you have said will aid them in reaching their goal.  They will be more successful, happier, better informed, etc.

What kind of "map" will the audience need? They will need to be able to recall the main ideas that you have presented.  Those main ideas are the backbone of your presentation. Whenever possible summarize what you said and then include a brief restatement "in other words" to add to their clarity.

How can more senses be involved?  If possible use both vision and hearing in the summary of your presentation.  If there were any gestures that you used repeatedly and effectively, use them again in your conclusion.  Anything that their brain can use to aid them in recall should be employed.

What will aid their recall? A final remark that invokes their larger goals, that builds on "promises made" and reminds them of the examples in your delivery that cited successes.  If possible, save the best to last. 

Like the introductions that you create, I would recommend that you put your brain through the process of selecting words for the conclusion.  Write it out just as if you were saying it to the audience.  That will aid you in being certain that all necessary elements have been included.  Don't memorize what you have written, but it would be great if you could practice it a few times.  In the introduction you are gaining and holding their attention while telling them who you are and what will be happening in the next few minutes as well as why this is important to them.  This is critical to your success in delivering the body of the speech. 

In your conclusion you will repeat, in other words, what you said during the introduction while putting a "fine point" of the reason that they should care.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


We should consider introductions to be a major contributor to the success of most communication.  That applies to interpersonal communication, small group communication and public speaking presentations.  There are questions we can ask ourselves that will aid our thinking process.

1.  Who am I?
2.  Who are they?
3.  Why should they care?
4.  What kind of "map" will the audience need?
5.  How can more senses be involved?
6.  What will aid their recall?

Who am I?  Two people can say the same thing with different outcomes.  A person that we know and trust can make the statement and we will listen, believe and attempt to retain.  Another that we don't know and therefore can't trust can make the statement and we listen with doubt, fear that we cannot trust and don't want to recall it because it might embarrass us. We call those we tend to believe credible.

For example. if you are a regular church member in good standing you probably trust your leader to give you valuable and useful information which you can use to improve your life.  If you are listening to a different religious leader you might not listen with the same unquestioning process and fail to either retain what was said or even consider it.  Who says a thing is very important.

Include information which will aid your listener in evaluating their need to focus, question and retain what you are saying.  Build your own credibility and the introduction is an excellent place to put it.

Who are they?  In conversation, one on one, we take into consideration who we are talking to.  That permits us to make as much sense as possible in the shortest length of time and achieve the desired result.  This rule always applies no matter how large the audience.  The more you know about the audience (what they know, what they do, how well they do it, what they would like to know and why) the more likely you will be able to meet their needs and expectations. We call that audience analysis and broadcasters and producers wouldn't know what to do without information about their projected audiences.

Why should they care?  If there is no particular reason for them to listen to you, why would they want to spend the time and energy focusing on what you have to say.  What's in it for them?  That's a legitimate question and it deserves your attention.  The reason they should care should be in the introduction.  Make it clear and sharply focused to insure that they are willing to spend the necessary time and attention.

What kind of "map" will the audience need? Is the trip they are taking with you a long and winding trip?  Or are you able to show them some direct routes to understanding.  This process can be likened to a map.  It has a starting point and and ending point.  Along the way there will be some scenery that they can enjoy and all in all it should be an enjoyable trip.  Be certain that the map you use fits the audience that is taking the trip.  This going to be clearest to you when you understand how the members of your audience "mean."  Remember, meaning is in us.  What we are going to attempt is to create that meaning in others.  That can't be done without careful consideration of who the audience is.  That will include, age, sex, education, experience, income, cultural values to name some of the needed categories.  This is an ideal location for your central idea as well as the main ideas you will be covering.

How can more senses be involved? Words (verbal) are detected by hearing.  Speak clearly and distinctly at a reasonable pace.  It is often very useful to include visual aids: photos and charts for example.  In addition, you can convert your "complete outline" into short clear phrases and sentences which can become part of a visual presentation using PowerPoint or other visual presentation software.  That way they can see what you are saying while you are saying it.  That will involve at least two senses (seeing and hearing) making it easier to follow what you are saying.  The nonverbal can be gestures and body movements that underscore what is being shown and said.

What will aid their recall?  Numbered sequences, mnemonic devices and actions can be useful to aid your listener to recall what you said.  For example: "There are three things that you must recall in order to. . .", "CIGARS will aid you when you are getting ready to takeoff in an airplane.  C is for controls. . ."  Students in kindergarten are taught letters and sound by combining actions and sounds and the process is very efficient in teaching the alphabet.

I further suggest that you take the time to write out, but not memorize, your introduction.  You will find it easier to set the ideas in your mind and analyze the elements you are including.  Your brain, having gone over the word choice process once, will do a better job of aiding you to choose your words when standing in front of your audience.

A well thought out introduction will open the minds of your listeners quickly and efficiently.  If you lose them at the beginning, you're not likely to get them back ever.  Think about what they need and what you need them to think and then give it to them as quickly and clearly as possible.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Two Important Items

These items are key, in many respects, to surviving a speech in front of an audience:
1) Knowing, and
2) A concern for the listener that approaches being a missionary.

Knowing: you will realize that you know beyond doubt when your boss asks you to fill in for him/her.  That should give you the perception check you need to accept your knowledge base as being dependable.  First, your boss isn't going to select anyone to be their representative anywhere unless there is confidence in their ability. Build on that confidence. When you are chosen to speak it is because there is confidence in your ability.  Accept that and build on it.

Missionary: think of your goal as being more important than your ability to avoid mistakes and shine under stress.  Instead, think of your knowledge as being something that individuals in the audience need in order to realize their goals.  The important thing then is that they hear, be able to recall and use what you are presenting to them.  Nothing else should be allowed to supersede that goal. 

These two concepts should go a long way to reduce the fear or stage fright that is no natural to most of us. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What You'll Need To Know

One of the most feared things in life is to have to make a public address.  It isn't that we're stupid, it is instead that we don't want to make a mistake in public and have others think of us as stupid.  Even for those who speak to large groups on a regular basis, there is fear (stage fright.) What makes us concerned about the possibility that somehow we will be forced to speak in public. 

That's a fair assumption.  If you do your job well over time, you will be noticed.  If for any reason the boss cannot meet the public speaking appointment, then those under their control will have to make the speech on the corporation's behalf.  What I will discuss in the next few blogs is how we can not only survive these events, but thrive.

Most importantly, we will know that we won't be asked to speak in order to embarrass the boss and your corporation.  Put another way, if you are asked to speak it will be because they know you know the material to be presented.  If you know what to do with the data you already have, then together we can turn the event into a career enhancing performance.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How Things Work

These are the steps of which to be aware when working within a group: orientation, conflict, emergence and reinforcement, and they are discussed in Communications: Principles for a Lifetime by Beebe, Beebe and Ivy. Practice them from this day forward and the likelihood of your success will be increased.  

1.  Orientation: several questions should come to mind.  "Why does this group exist?"  "Who are these folk with whom I will be working?"  "What is it that we are expected to accomplish?" "Why am I part of this group anyway?"

If any attempt is made to "get things going" without adequate answers to these questions the likelihood of success is reduced.  It is usually good to ask questions even though you think you know what you would do in the situation. Without this step how can you be certain that all in the group are trying to achieve the same goal?

2.  Conflict: because we are all different there will be conflict.  It is the very nature of human contact.  The question to answer is, "How do we resolve our conflict?" Conflict will emerge from a wide range of points.

"Who put you in charge, anyway?"  "Why are we working on this goal now?"  "What makes you think that we can achieve this goal following that plan?" Isn't this plan that was successful in Medford what we need here?"  "Why do we need to reinvent the wheel?"

3.  Emergence: through discussion, sharing data, and negotiation something comes out that appears to be workable. As the context changes each participant may come to view the goal and the strategies in ways that weren't anticipated. In fact, it is probable that there will be changes out of which a solution may emerge.

As the discussion proceeds, terminology becomes refined and words merge into a new context, which allows each participant to better understand what is happening.  New things are being said like: "Now is see what you mean."  "I think when we view our goal from this point of view, more of us can agree."  "It is a reachable goal and with what we have learned here we can reach it fairly soon." Often some key data turns up as a result of multiple participants discussion.  "I think the success of that plan in Medford can be adapted to our situation here."

4.  Reinforcement: as progress toward a goal is made it is a good thing to point out. Those who have been outspoken may be more comfortable putting their contributions into a new context. Here is an important place for compliments that are straight forward an honest can payoff. Having achieved goals is almost always a point to celebrate. If social rewards are passed out, it will be good for both the group and the individual.  Giving credit where credit is due is an excellent way to put it. 

Keep in mind, communication is a process.  People are processes.  They aren't now what they once were and with proper care and compliments they will be increasingly productive.  Our associations one with another is a building process.  Future projects will be more successful and easier to achieve because of the mutual reinforcement we practice.Another way to look at it is: there is no end, only process. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Teams and Groups

When we stop to think about it, a great deal is accomplished when folk get together and work toward a common goal.  I'm certain we have that concept somewhere in our mind.  It's important that each person in the group be "on the same page." And it is important that each person is aware of the fact that they belong to something. 

"Team means Together Everyone Achieves More!" It isn't known who first said this, and it applies to group activities as well as team efforts.  What is often overlooked is "those groups/teams do best that have the best communication skills.  As a consequence, businesses are always on the lookout for employees that can work together with others and have excellent communication skills.  

Time spent improving out abilities in communication is really time well spent for us individually and for our entire community.  Those skills should be put to use all the time so that we can achieve things together that individually would be beyond our reach.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Keep In Mind These Four

When you are previewing your day include some thought (and preparation) for the various contacts you expect or imagine coming your way.  It is possible that the most important form of human communication is interpersonal, a dyad.  It will aid you in making and maintaining friendships, help you acquire and maintain a job and possibly most importantly help you to gain and maintain your significant other.  There are four basic concepts that Donn King suggests will help you to recall areas of needed preparation.

1) Interpersonal communication is inescapable

2) Interpersonal communication is irreversible

3) Interpersonal communication is complicated

4) Interpersonal communication is contextual

Take five minutes to review these and then put them into practice to smooth the road ahead.



Monday, February 06, 2012

Who are you?

Tough question for many of us.  "I am what I am," some say.  "That's what I am and you'll have to take it or leave it."  On the other hand, if our genes, life experiences and thoughts have a bearing on who we are, then we also have a say in who we are and who we want to be.  We can shape our future.  Julian Baggini during a TED Talk clearly expresses this idea. To view his presentation click on the link above.

We can train our brain in many ways.  Explore what you want to be, and then begin the process necessary for you to reach your goal.  Try to keep your goals in the reasonable range.  I will never be able to run a 4 minute mile, for example.  On the other hand, you might be able to.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Words Are Powerful

We often hear folk say, "Talk is cheap."  In many ways, that is correct.  But, it tempts us to ignore the power of words.  Take a look at this example found on YouTube and you'll get another impression of the power of words. 

The more we think about what we say and how we say it the better off we all will be.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Who Do You Think You Are?

A question we must ask ourselves over and over again.  The reason is simple: we are constantly changing and growing.  What we used to think of ourselves is no longer appropriate in many areas. 

For example, when we were younger we used to play with our food.  Very seldom do you see adults in a restaurants playing with their food.  They have changed.  They no longer think of food as something to play with. 

We must take the time to reexamine ourselves on a regular basis to note and remember the changes that have become part of us.  Once we have a good handle on who we think we are, its a good idea to check with others that we know and trust to see if we have a handle on who we really are.

As we grow we will discover that certain things we used to believe are no longer as important as we used to think.  That applies to all our attitudes, beliefs and values.  That probably means that our behaviors will also be changing.  That is a very good thing.  What we used to think was funny doesn't seem nearly as funny today.  What we thought of as a great meal may no longer meet what we know we should be eating.  Things change. . .we change, and we have to keep track

The reason is simple: we are now empowered to say and do things that we were unable to do or say a short time ago.  We are also able to say things now that just a short time ago we wouldn't have said and had we tried, those around us wouldn't have paid any attention.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

To Assure Success

Since we are all different from each other, because we need one another it is imperative that we find a way to remain forever wrapped in our own skins but still able to accomplish great things together.  To do that you need to know as much about yourself and others as possible within your time constraints.  The greater the common experiences, including education, the greater the chances that we will be able to resolve the inevitable conflicts thus giving each other the best chance to achieve their goals.

Keep in mind that you are human and it will be impossible not to make premature judgements . . . just don't act on them.  Acquire more data (listen). Be certain you have done your best to understand the other person and then taking into consideration who they are, who they think they are, who you are and who you think you are, adapt your communication to the situation.  Useful questions which do not appear to be judgmental will be useful, such as: "By that did you mean. . .?" Following these simple ideas you should find that things should be much smoother.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Overall Goal

Since none of us want to waste time and money by not learning useful materials, consider this.  If you study, apply and ask questions, you should make rapid progress and improvement in your communication abilities.  Start now to follow this suggested plan:
1) study all materials on a daily basis,
2) review what you've studied and practice what you've learned,
3) when no opportunities present themselves to test what you've learned, create some,
4) understand the vocabulary being used in your reading materials as well as discussion,
5) ask for clarification when you're not certain you are on the right track.

If you follow this pattern on a regular basis, no money will be wasted and a grade higher than you expected will likely be earned.  Give it a shot.