Friday, July 30, 2004

When your life depends on effective communication

This is a link very much worth checking out. Dealing with the interpersonal communications skills of police and military, it provides insight to the importance of just how you communicate.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Listen here

As a speaker, you spend a lot of time thinking about the listener. But, how much time to you spend thinking about listening? How good a listener are you?

Speak up - How you deliver

How you deliver the words that you've thought over, organized and groomed for grammar, is quite simply, your last opportunity to blow it. Or as the post-modernist-optimistic self-help guru's would say: "It's your chance to succeed and exceed!"

It's actually not as grim as I might put it, since usually, the audience is pulling for you. They want you to be interesting, captivating and persuasive. They like the feeling that you are in control and taking them along with you.

Remember this though: If you are speaking from a prepared text, a written speech - rehearse it, memorize it and condense it into notes so that you can deliver your speech to the audience, not down into the pile of papers which you are hanging onto for dear life.

I listened to a speaker at the Democratic National Convention who slowly, clearly and methodically read her prepared remarks. I listened hard and decided her words were worthwhile, but there was no passion behind them, she wasn't speaking directly to me, and as a result my mind wandered. I can't even remember who she was.

Why rehearse?
Think of all the elements that make up your delivery:

  • Volume
  • Vocal pitch
  • Facial expression
  • Gestures
  • Body language
  • Speed (or lack thereof)

I'm sure this list misses things - it's simply to show you there are a number of things you'll need to work on every time you open your mouth. Can you remember your point, your words and make music out of them without practice and rehearsal?

Rehearse. In the car, the bathroom, while walking the dog and whenever else you make time. The importance of what you are saying and why you are speaking determines the amount of time needed practicing it. Would you do less when participating in a piano recital or sporting event?

The more you do it the better you'll get.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

How you say it - Grammar counts

Continuing with the three way breakdown of How you say things, out of
  • Structure
  • Grammar
  • Delivery

Now we are looking at grammar "the principles or rules of an art, science, or technique " of communication. Everything on the language of what you say, from vocabulary, sentence structure to  figures of speech, falls in this category.


One of my favorite examples of grammar as an effective tool is the question posed by Groucho Marx: "So, when did you stop beating your wife?" 

Grammar is the easiest and hardest thing to effect in your speaking. You have a whole storehouse of grammatical patterns built into your everyday speech and thinking. If these consist of good habits, then life is good otherwise you have that much more work ahead of you. If you need to improve your use of words, your common figures of speech, you overall way of string words into sentences and thoughts, the good news is you have a lot of opportunities to do it - whenever you open your mouth. The bad news is you will need to break old habits, conscious of what you say and how whenever you open your mouth.

Lose bad habits

Look for easy things first - cuss words and outright obscenities first. Then look for otherwise over-used phrases "duh", "you know", "whatever". Listen to yourself carefully. For a real eye opener try a voice operated recorder - just carry it around in a pocket for a day or so. You'll listen and cringe. Kids are also helpful in pointing out some of these foibles.

Once you are attacking these verbal bad habits, they'll often cause you to fill in the spaces with other sounds - um's and ah's that you'll need to prevent lest they get added as another verbal twitch.

Try to replace bad habits with good habits, instead of always simply going cold turkey. For instance, replace "you know" with "do you understand?" This is a helpful feedback mechanism and it's long enough that you'll drop it when you don't need, just to save the effort.

Have a goal

As you conquer your bad habits - replacing bad habits with better habits, you'll slowly acquire a growing awareness of what you say, as you say it. At this point, you can start thinking ahead more easily, thinking about the goal, the reason your point of what you are saying.

Now you are integrating structure!

There's more...