Month: January 2015

To gain confidence, give up control


In my public speaking courses, we are just finishing the first round of “speeches.” (I put it in quotation marks because they’re really get-on-your-feet exercises.) I can already see a key difference among many of them.

There are two kinds of speakers: drivers and sailors. (There are two kinds of people: those who put everyone into two categories, and those who don’t. But that’s another post.) Drivers may or may not know where they’re going, but they try to steer everything exactly where they want to go. Sailors, likewise, may or may not know where they’re going, but they’re comfortable adapting to constantly changing conditions. Continue reading

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Community fridge gives psychological insights


After a couple of days, I noticed that the level of the creamer I kept in the community fridge in the hospital’s PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) had gone way down, much lower than my own usage would suggest.

My daughter’s health was, of course, of much greater concern, but it still registered in my consciousness. Later in the day, the level was noticeably lower, despite me having had no further cups of coffee.

Obviously, someone was using my creamer, although it was clearly labeled with my daughter’s name and hospital room number. Continue reading

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Don’t overload the channels

Bad PowerPoint

Today I got a reminder that teachers don’t necessarily remember that effective teaching equates pretty closely with effective speaking. A colleague at the lunch table commented on the ineffectiveness of teachers who will stand at the front of the room and read off a PowerPoint slide. Continue reading

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Why communication skills matter to everyone


I don’t remember how long ago it was, but I remember a friend telling me about the local newspaper having two openings at the time. They had 104 positions in the newsroom at the time. For those two openings, they received 120 resumés.

If you don’t already know it, resumés are not really for getting a job; they are for eliminating candidates. If you make it through to the interview stage, you are qualified for the job, and so is everyone else who makes it through. I’m not saying the skills are unimportant. I’m saying that if they’re talking to you, it’s a given that you have the skills (at least on paper). So the decision about whom to hire will hinge on other factors. Continue reading

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Hard to break instincts for social media

Outraged baby

I’m a trained journalist. But I almost got sucked into one of those outrages that get passed around Facebook even when they are wrong.

I think it’s very similar to what James Altucher calls “outrage porn,” where people get a high from being outraged, and feed it back and forth among themselves. We (I) like to think we’re above that sort of thing, but it’s so easy to get pulled into it, especially when we pick it up from someone we know and trust–but they can get pulled in also!

I don’t want to add to the spread of a falsehood, so I’m not going to link to the original piece. But for context, I need to tell you my friend linked to a story that claimed Illinois just quietly made it a felony to record police in the course of their duties without their consent. In light of the increased reporting of police abuse, of course any suggestion that such a law passed would lead to outrage.

(Note: whether police abuse is, in fact, increasing or what the causes might be have nothing to do with this post.)

The link also includes a petition to the governor countering this, which at this writing has reached nearly 35,000 signature out of 50,000 needed.

This kind of thing outrages me, and I had my finger on the mouse button to repost it to all my Facebook friends. But something told me to look into it a little further.

I’m glad I did.

Not only is there no truth to the outrage article, but it’s actually the opposite: the old law could have been twisted to make recording police carrying out their duties illegal.

The new law isn’t perfect–opponents quite rightly fear that it weakens the requirement that police obtain a warrant before recording suspects. But as far as whether you can legally record police at work without their permission (and what cop abusing his authority is going to give permission?)–the new law actually makes it clear that you can do so without fear of prosecution, at least for that “offense.”

For the record: it’s legal in all 50 states to record police carrying out their public duties. That doesn’t mean you won’t get in practical trouble if you do so. After all, by definition an abusive cop isn’t following the law. What’s one more abuse? For that reason, a lot of people have begun using apps that stream the recording to someplace in the cloud as the video is being taken–there have been too many reports of police illegally confiscating cell phones and cameras and deleting files or even destroying the devices. If it’s already on the cloud, then the evidence is preserved.

In any case: I am reminded once again of the wisdom of pausing, checking things out before passing them on, etc. Social media has not changed this human tendency to outrage, but it has made it exponentially easier to react emotionally before logic has a chance to ask questions.

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The real advantage of social media: it makes it easier to ask for info

Tin Can Phone

Yesterday I worked with a colleague from the college on a new podcast for faculty using emerging technology in higher education. I really love what doing something like that does for my own mind. The cliché (which is true, even if cliché) is that to really learn something, teach it to someone else. Because we were putting together something to teach others about social media in education, it has changed the way I’m looking at social media myself. Continue reading

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Know the different kinds of knowing

Nasty plumbing

Our son just got a practical lesson in economics as well as in education.

He replaced the inflow part of his toilet. It’s not rocket science, but it takes abilities that fall within the scope of all three types of knowing.

Some years ago I had the privilege of hearing Dr. John Shotter talk about the nature of dialogue. I will not try to explain what I heard. In the first place, it nearly made my head explode. In the second place, I’m not at all sure I understood it–not that he couldn’t explain it clearly. It’s just somewhat like my dog trying to understand my explanation of symbolism in Shakespeare.

But I think I properly understood a useful classification of three types of knowing. (Disclaimer: this is my understanding of it, and may not be what Dr. Shotter intended.) There is “knowing that” (basically, knowing facts and information), “knowing how” (knowing a skillset), and “knowing from within” (knowing the norms from within a culture as well as what we might call “gut level” knowing).

The economics lesson can be summed up like this: when you are able or willing to do what other people are either unable or unwilling to do, you can make a living.

Plumbers can charge what they do because to some degree they know things other people don’t. It goes beyond mere information–after all, the Internet has revealed all, at least as far as basic facts are concerned (the first kind of knowing). And the Internet has even revealed much (if not all) of the second type of knowing–the process for completing basic plumbing tasks such as replace an inflow valve. (My son had no problem finding YouTube videos to show him “how.”) But the third type of knowing usually only comes with experience. In this case, although he has never changed that particular fixture before, he has done enough work with pipes to have a proper “feel” for how things should go together, how tight the connection should be, etc.

But plumbers can also charge what they do because to some degree they are willing to do what other people aren’t. You can’t pay me enough money, for instance, to get me to crawl underneath my house. If there is plumbing to be done under there, it is worth it to me to pay someone who knows what they’re doing, and is willing to do it.

In this case, the economic lesson involved the number of times he said, “Yuck!” I’m grateful he was willing to do it–it saved a bill from the plumber. But if that simple task involved that degree of “yuck,” it’s easy to see there will come a time when he might have the knowledge to complete some plumbing task, but not the willingness.

And if he develops that willingness, then he could have a lucrative profession in his future.

What about you? What parts of your job involve which types of knowing? What parts involve a simple willingness to do the hard parts? Isn’t that what continues to keep writers and speakers paid in this age of easy communication? When anyone can publish pretty much anything for free, isn’t that what keeps people buying magazines, books, and subscriptions?

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