The three-fold cord of speaking will keep you strong

Rope

There is a bit of wisdom that sticks with me from childhood, from Ecclesiastes 4:12, that says, “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Even if you don’t do a lot of manual labor (I certainly don’t), you still know that a typical rope isn’t just a bunch of threads. It consists of fibers twisted into yarn, yarn twisted into strands, and strands twisted into lays. A typical rope consists of three lays.

That metaphor serves well in thinking about improving effective speaking. It takes competence in three areas woven together: effective delivery, effective organization for the ear, and effective content. Continue reading “The three-fold cord of speaking will keep you strong”

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Why communication skills matter to everyone

Hired!

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 “Why communication skills matter to everyone”

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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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