Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 2)

Harvest Elder Wisdom Before It’s Too Late

Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

I teach public speaking to college students. They dread the required class, though many tell me they look back on it as a favorite. Even after many of them discover they like it, they still struggle with my final assignment.

That last assignment requires them to talk with an elderly person (preferably someone who doesn’t get many visitors). They seek wisdom they can share with their classmates via a speech.

Our culture tends to keep us siloed in many ways. We seldom talk with people of different political bents, different social levels, or different ages than ourselves. Confirmation bias is just part of human psychology. Studies show that the nature of social media only exacerbates that tendency.

Of course, just because someone is old doesn’t mean they’re wise. But it’s easy to stereotype people with whom we don’t interact. This is how we miss out on their value.

Dreading the assignment, some students try to wiggle out of it in all kinds of ways. One of my colleagues uses the task in one of her classes. One day she overheard two students in the hallway. One said to the other, “I’m dropping this class! I don’t wanna talk to no old people! They smell funny!”

Experience suggests those two have no idea what they missed by ducking the assignment. Several have called it life-changing. More than a few continue to visit their interviewee after the semester ends.

It’s a win for everyone. The students learn something helpful in managing their lives. The older folks have not only some company but also the pleasure of telling their stories.

To their surprise, students learn that people they think of as old and slow had some amazing experiences earlier in their lives. One student, for instance, learned that her interviewee had been a Vegas showgirl. Another recounted harrowing stories from his interviewee’s time as a Marine.

You have resources you take for granted in your life. Almost certainly, you have older relatives, and if you don’t, you have friends who do. The pandemic may restrict your ability to sit with someone in person, but older people still have telephones.

Sometimes the interviewee passes away before the student delivers the speech, making it very emotional. At least three times in the last five years, the interviewee died before the student could conduct the interview.

So think of someone you could have a conversation like this with. If it makes it easier, tell them it’s an assignment — no need to explain that I’m not grading you. But don’t wait too long, or you may only have regret over a missed opportunity.

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Remodeling

This site has been inactive for quite some time. My life’s direction has been changing. I don’t want to lose what we’ve build up over years, but we really need to update things before moving ahead. So if you stumble across the site in the meantime, I just want to let you know that we haven’t forgotten about the site, and we will soon be offering you new, practical tools for effective communication. Please bookmark us and come back. Thanks!

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Learning to fall

falling

When I was a kid, one of my good friends was Steve Reid. Steve later went on to be a successful musician in Memphis, Tennessee, though he passed away unexpectedly two years ago. We lost touch over the years but thankfully reconnected before he left this earth.

As a working musician, Steve certainly knew how to keep going despite failure. We never talked about it, but I know the life of a musician is hard–constantly hustling to get the gigs, to make a living, to keep the vibe going.

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What does coaching really mean for teaching?

Peabody High School 1940 ChampionsA colleague commented on Facebook recently about the “coaching method” for teaching college composition. That label carries with it quite a bit of detail regarding approach to teaching, but there is an aspect that, I think, should be a part of every college teacher, and every speaker to some degree.

When I hear “coaching method,” I think of the football coach at my high school, Walter Kilzer. Continue reading

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Use a free, easy tool to improve your speaking

Coffee with Donn logo

I have started a Facebook video series to share speaking tips (and some writing tips, but focused on “out loud”). I’m going to try to do this twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) to see how it goes. After we get going, I’ll broadcast live so people can interact during the broadcast, but the recording will remain available.

You don’t have to have a Facebook account to see it. But if you have one, “like” the page while you are there to make it easy to see more content as it comes out.

You can see the first Coffee with Donn video here.

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Why I use Scrivener for writing almost everything

Scrivener logo

You probably already have a favorite app you use for writing. “Favorite” may be a loose term–you may or may not like it. It could just be the least irritating tool you have. But it’s one you’re used to. It either came loaded on your device, or as part of a larger suite you paid big bucks for or got for free.

I want to suggest that you consider paying for a tool that will do the job better for you and save you time and frustration, especially if you work on longer projects. I have been using Scrivener for a couple of years, and I find myself using it for writing just about everything, from books to articles to speaking notes.

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Knowing and “knowing” are not the same

doctor smoke

I just came from the grocery store. You see people you know there if you live in a relatively small town. As I was checking out, I saw one of Hannah’s respiratory therapists outside the front of the store. I knocked on the window to get her attention, and she reacted, but didn’t seem sure what the noise was or where it came from.

She then put a cigarette to her lips and pulled a long drag.

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Conflict is inevitable; effective communication is not

Fear vs. trust

This weekend I will be presenting an education session for the District 63 Toastmasters Spring Conference in Chattanooga. We’ll be talking about Healthy Conflict, aimed at managing such within a Toastmasters club, but the principles apply to any organization.

Here’s the gist: conflict is inevitable. If you are alive, you will experience conflict. Many of us spend a lot of time trying to avoid conflict, and while we certainly don’t need to seek it or cause it on purpose, we should face the reality that it will happen, and so focus on developing skills for effective, healthy conflict. Continue reading

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