Seeing what is rather than what you think

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One of the most overlooked aspects of communication is the communication you have with yourself.

Two incidents in the last week have me thinking about this.

The first happened when I tried to use the search box here on Donn King’s Corner, only to find that there wasn’t one! I can’t imagine how that happened! Usually whenever I set up a WordPress blog, the search widget is one of the first things I install. I not only assumed it was there, but I could swear that I’ve used the thing since I updated to the current theme!

It’s really hard to see things strictly from a reader’s perspective, since I’m so familiar with the inner workings of the site. Likewise, it can be very hard to see your topic from you audience’s perspective–you just don’t look at it the same way. Nevertheless, it is important to try to see things from the audience’s perspective, whether that is an audience of readers or of listeners.

There is now actually a search box over in the right-hand menu.

The second was an exercise we did in the college speech classes I teach. It involved me reading a short (five-sentence) story to the class, then making a series of statements that I asked them to respond to with either true, false, or “not known,” meaning there wasn’t enough information in the story to be able to say for certain.

Most of them responded to seven out of the nine statements with a definite true or false (some answered all nine that way), whereas analysis revealed that only three of the statements could be definitely answered. The statements were ordered in such a way that after a series of “not known” statements, they began to doubt themselves concerning those few statements that had a definite basis in fact.

The students figured out an important truth: after hearing something, it is later very difficult to separate what you actually heard from what you thought about what you heard. The two “feel” pretty much the same.

Put them together, and you get this: be a skeptic even of your own thinking. You can’t stop making assumptions–you have to make assumptions to get through a day. But become ever more acutely aware of when you’re acting on the basis of known fact, and when you’re acting on the basis of an assumption (and how solid the assumption is).

Photo Credit: Mads Boedker cc

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Author: Donn King

Donn King works with individuals and organizations who want to forge top-notch communication skills to increase their influence and impact. He is associate professor of speech and journalism at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee, as well as a speaker and writer. His background includes ministry, newspaper, radio, small magazines and other publications, as well as co-authoring a textbook and blogging.