A Lot to Say

no words

It seems more and more I find myself with a lot to say, but find no words that are adequate.

A lot to say

photo credit: Danielle McInnes/unsplash.com

I’ve experienced this for years when facing the loss of a loved one or a friend. Even the words that are true and right just don’t seem to express my feelings at a given moment. And so I sit in silence. Or perhaps I repeat the same neutral, void-filling phrase over and over again.

Other life events bring similar moments. When a friend or family member makes choices with less than positive circumstances . . . when a friend or family member ignores what I said when I had something to say . . . when . . . when things I have previously said have hurt or isolated or angered another — even when my words were absolutely correct.

Sometimes there is no event, no particular moment. Sometimes words can’t impact the most glorious of spontaneous, non-history-making instants. Sometimes . . .

I suppose the point is this,

 

NEAT Communication – Effective

How much time do you invest in your choice of words? If you’re like me, you really want to get them right the first time — and you are a little impatient if you have to repeat them. We want to be known as effective communicators.

Yet, what are the rights words? We have to judge the moment . . . and the audience . . . and the culture . . . and the impact of the eventual soundbite that will be distilled from what we say.

And, for most of our communications, this all must be done at the speed of sound.

In this mini-series on “NEAT Communication,” we are looking at the four elements that set us apart as excellent communicators: Necessary, Effective, Accurate, and Timely. One element, without consideration of the other three, can be devastating to our meaning. The effectiveness of what we say or attempt to convey is part of a broader package.

Memes.007To be truly effective, ask yourself these three questions before speaking (or writing a text or email). It’s an easy exercise with dramatic potential.

  1. Have I “listened to the end?” A major detractor to effective communication is our failure to fully hear the other side of a conversation. Don’t worry so much about when you can jump in. Pause. Reflect. If you’re not certain, ask curious questions.
  2. Do I want to nurture conversation or simply end it? Chances are, if you are wanting to end a conversation, your choice of words may be effective for that purpose. However, similar to the “win at all costs” approach to life, the lingering aura of negativity will limit your present relationships as well as those that will be preempted by your reputation. Respond in a way that keeps the conversation viable, even if you must interrupt it in the moment. Choose words that convey your thoughts in clear, but non-threatening language. A phrase that threatens only escalates the conflict.
  3. If I repeat what I am about to say, will it have the same meaning that I intended in the first moment? When confronted with their own hasty words, people often reply, “That’s not what I meant!” That sentence is not particularly effective, because it’s too late. (See the upcoming post on Timely.) After pausing and reflecting, speak slowly. Don’t be afraid of a little silence as you craft your meaning. If the other person is impatient, ask them for a moment to make your words right. In most cases, the first meaning assigned to your communication is the one that will survive.

Choice of words is a mixture of knowledge and wisdom. Words do matter and the right words will set you apart — and save your relationships and your reputation.

A Brand New Year!

A brand new year!

It is always my hope that I will do better in a new year. Better diet, more exercise, less sin, more friends, and a lot more family.

Yet, I never seem to get there.

Pounds cling to my body, chances to stretch and to strengthen are too often left by the wayside, I do what I want — even when I don’t really want it, I sit alone and I think about me too much.

I’m excited about a brand new year. Despite my failings to improve in my 60+ years, I still have hope. In fact, in many ways I have done better year after year at many of these resolutions. It’s just that I have had such a long way to travel — and the path stretches out in front of me for quite a ways.

As I age, I’m becoming more and more aware of the danger of emphasizing SELF-improvement over a joyous, focused effort to walk closely with God.

Better times are often less a product of what we avoid and more the result of what we actively pursue.

That’s where we should be headed this year. No doubt, we may veer from that course from time to time. But with eyes trained on Him, we can’t help but do better.

Happy New Year!

Liars’ Holiday

the problem with talking too much

It’s the holidays. I haven’t been to the office in over three days. I watched a couple of Christmas movies. I read my new book. And I spent an unbelievable amount of time catching up on the political scene. In fact, I spent over an hour yesterday morning just trying to grasp the enormity of “misinformation” that leaks out of people. I knew it was there, but I found myself intrigued by the liars’ indexes that have been gathered.

photo credit: The Telegraph

Much could be made of the fact that the worse offenders seemed to be gathered along one end of the political spectrum. But it’s shocking to see how much falsehood is thrust upon us by all of the candidates — and sitting officials.

Still, I wondered why some of these folks seemed to be so focused on falsity.

‘The lady doth protest too much, methinks.’

I have settled on the idea that is attributed to Queen Gertrude in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. And no, this is not an indictment of the female candidates for president. In fact, both appear in the middle of the list of fabricators. Instead, I’m thinking about the meaning attributed to that statement over the years.

We think of the statement using the modern definition of the word “protest” — a challenge, a defensive move. When Bill Shakespeare wrote, protest meant a vow or commitment. The Queen was saying that the lady in the play she was viewing was trying to promise too much. To which her son, Hamlet (the playwright), said, “Oh, but she’ll keep her word.”

As I reviewed the list of candidates, it occurred to me that placement on the liars’ scale could have a lot to do with promising too much. That’s a common malady of those who talk too much.

Now, for those of you who are offended by my analysis, I am truly sorry. But listen to those statements. Take a close look at the quotes that land these people on the liars’ list. In most cases, their statements would have been valid if they had just stopped early enough.

In the press to win, to overcome, and perhaps, even to lay waste to others, we all go beyond what we’ve thought through. Sometimes we’re lucky and we deliver on our promises. Sometimes, we “protest too much, methinks.”

A healthy pause can be a good thing. And listening to others during the pause could be, too.