Who is your actual audience?

book-of-job

I don’t have figures to back this up, but experience suggests that a lot of arguments aim not so much to convince the other person as to justify your position to yourself.

I had the great experience of speaking to the Foothills Unitarian Universalist Fellowship this morning about the power of storytelling. I’ve known that power for years in terms of affecting other people, and this morning’s talk focused on the power of the stories we tell ourselves. As part of that talk, we turned to the Book of Job, especially as translated by Stephen Mitchell. Continue reading “Who is your actual audience?”

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Book review: Say yes and benefit from this book

One of the major rules of improv comedy, of which Avish Parashar is an expert, is that whatever your colleagues throw at you, you should say yes to it and develop it. Saying no stops the action. It’s a little harder to see that “yes, but” is just a form of no, but in effect it is.

Say “Yes, And!”: 2 Little Words That Will Transform Your Career, Organization, and Life! lays out the contrast between “yes, but” and “yes, and,” and makes a quick case for the huge difference it makes in attitudinal and practical terms. It then proceeds to develop those insights in great depth and apply them to several areas of life.

An important idea for me out of this book is that we say “Yes, but” so much because it works, in the sense of getting some immediate result. We can miss the downside, though: it stops the scene, the action. It stops development. It stops progress. We say it because we’ve gotten some reinforcement from the immediate results, without ever seeing the long-term results that would have come from “yes, and.”

Plus, “yes, but” is safe. It doesn’t involve risk. On the other hand, “yes, and” is effective. Throughout the book, Avish shows how “yes, and” is more effective, especially in the long run, than “yes, but.”

Also throughout the book, Avish is careful to point out that he is advocating neither mindless agreement, nor becoming a pushover, nor even avoiding “yes, but” altogether. “Yes, and” is a mindset, not a rule. The idea isn’t to turn you into a clone of Jim Carrey in “Yes Man,” but simply to remember to be open. (And, I would add, it enables you to genuinely and warmly say no when you need to, without beating around the bush.)

Avish simply believes “and” is superior, and he suggests three considerations for saying “but.”

  1. Say “yes, but” later.
  2. Put the positive after the “but.” (Managers are told to start with something positive, mention whatever criticism they have, and then finish with something positive, often called the “criticism sandwich.” Research tends to show it doesn’t work very well. (http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/the-world/article/the-criticism-sandwich-a-stale-idea-1). What does work, according to Clifford Nass, the Thomas M. Storke Professor at Stanford University, is starting with the negatives, followed by a long list of positives–sort of a criticism deep-dish pizza. Parashar’s principle here, fits that bit of advice.)
  3. Use “but” to come up with alternatives–really another way of saying “yes, and.”

In developing his thesis, Avish hits on a topic that is close to my heart: communication. He says good communication is at the heart of success (I would agree), and says, “‘Yes, And’ is the simple tool you can use to increase the quality of your communication and make it as effective as possible.”

I definitely recommend reading this book more than once. Its deceptively simple approach has many nuggets of practical wisdom that you can mine over several readings.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book. That doesn’t matter. I calls ’em like I sees ’em, and would say so if I didn’t like it.

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Learning to work right

At first glance this article would seem to have little to do with college, academics, learning, etc. In fact, it gets at the whole point of higher education, in my opinion. My students often here from me that college has never really been about preparing a student for a job; it is about helping a student learn to live more effectively (which, by the way, generally makes a student more attractive to an employer).

Here is how Cal Newport expressed the insight: “Finding the right work pales in importance to learning how to work right.”

As both my students and my children probably get sick of hearing: it’s not what happens to you but what you think about what happens to you that determines your experiences.

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