Tag Archives: Communication

Identifying Connections

When I am fully alert, aware and focused in my current moment (instead of running through the constant lists in my head of what should be done, and where else I must go, etc.) I remind myself to look for connections and not distinctions between myself and the people around me.  There are plenty of things that separate us from all the people around us, even those who should be closest.  We often tend to focus on these differences.

We have more similarities with all of other people on this Earth than we recognize, sometimes we have to look deeper and sometimes just think more simply.  We could be worlds apart ideologically, but both appreciate a hug or a kind word when we are hurting, say.  And back before we were quite so global, sociologists did studies that nearly all people named facial expressions of basic emotions the same – sadness, anger, happiness and such.

Closer to home, and having just celebrated Christmas, the connection between my almost 24 year old son and his 6 year old cousin makes me smile.  Other than being part of the same family and both male, they have very little context that aligns on the surface.  But they have a mutual interest in Legos.  And since my son was willing to pull out a few boxes containing a portion of the million Legos that he owns to sit with his cousin for a couple of hours they have found other things that they can talk about together and enjoy.

High Five - Copy

I don’t know you and all the joys and challenges that you encounter, but I imagine that we could quickly find some means to bond if we started to talk.  We don’t have to be friends forever, or even ever see each other again to have a moment of connection.

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Assigning Motives

Sometimes I watch these procedural dramas on TV like Criminal Minds and CSI because I like to see the methodology.  But the creators seem to think that they must show obscenely deviant behavior to make their point and that is wearing.  We have so many of these shows and books that it starts to seem much more common than it really is to have psychopaths running loose.

 

We do like to know why something happened, why someone did something.  It helps us to know what to do with the experience.  Most of us will never, thankfully, encounter someone who is psychotic but we do have plenty of incidents in our daily interactions and we assign motives to the other participants in these incidents so that we can categorize the why, make some sense, decide how to react or move on.

 

For instance, we should all be conscious in our interactions with businesses that their motive is profit – sometimes in a manner that is beneficial to us as well as the company and sometimes at our caution.  (I’ll refer you back to my post about my dumb phone, I don’t see the services offered with these smart phones as more beneficial to me than the profit the company gains – or even as equally beneficial.)  Businesses have marketing folks to smooth over their profit motive and make their product or service as attractive as possible to the largest pool of potential customers.  And buyer who forgets the underlying business motive beware.

public domain image

public domain image

 

Where assigning motives really gets interesting, though, is in our one on one or group interactions.   Have you heard friends or coworkers say things like, ‘he’s out to get me’, ‘she always gets her way’, ‘of course the company scheduled X when I had other plans’?  When we are assigning motives, they are usually negative.

public domain image

public domain image

 

We all do it, but do we ever question what our own motive is in making these assignments?  What criteria are we applying to come to this conclusion?  Back to these shows, sometimes they come up with these outlandishly fully realized motives from the thinnest of clues.  (Purportedly the characters are just that brilliant.)  We need to examine the criteria that we are applying for false reasoning, question our own motives in assigning motives once in a while.

 

Complex and devious motives probably exist more often on these TV dramas than in our own interactions.  What do you think?

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

The Power of the Right Word

We learn to speak without understanding the power of language.  We just know that we start to associate specific combinations of sounds to the result that we want – combining sounds to produce ‘juice’ gets us a sweet, cold beverage that slakes our thirst.  So we say it again when our mouth is dry and we need liquid.  Other sound combinations get results too – uttering ‘mommy’ or ‘daddy’ gets lots of wonderful attention, hugs and kisses.  Score!

 

Somewhere along the line we experience the pain of words too.  A casually repeated word like ‘dummy’ gains a lecture about not hurting others perhaps.  But do we really understand the power of words yet?

 

Learning that certain words have specific associations to a place – the playground has looser rules than the classroom – teaches us a level of appropriateness, but not necessarily understanding.  We have just enough to know how to be hurtful without knowing why we might be hurtful.

 

I love words – their sound, combining them for just the right effect – I love to read them and to write them.  I want to understand them, not just use them.  When I am trying to make a point with people who don’t have the same intense relationship to words I like to use an example.  If you need a group to listen you can say different things – examples run from ‘Be quiet’ to ‘Shut up’.  These are essentially the same command but they have very different connotations for the listeners.  If you would like to show authority, but not disrespect toward the group, then your option is clearly ‘be quiet’, ‘quiet, please’ or something along that line.

DSC03588

I know that I cannot expect others to love words as I do.  But this example usually helps to gain understanding.  In English, we have many options to say something, to get our point across – all valid – which makes choosing the right option for the circumstance an important step.  What do we intend to convey?  Who is our audience?  What is important within the message that is also important to the audience?

 

There is so much that should go into word choice, too much for one blog post.  I need a reminder now and then that words have alternate meanings, even regional meanings sometimes, and that the point of combining sounds into words and words into sentences and paragraphs is to communicate.  Communicating isn’t just about what I want to say, but about how the person or group who will receive the message will perceive it.  The right word has great power, and the wrong word – well, there is usually a long list of trending social media topics about the famous folks who chose the wrong word at the wrong time.

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

The Business and IT Convergence

The differences between the way that business sees an issue, a system and the way that IT (or IS) sees the same issue or system is usually termed a divide.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  We are seeing two sides of the same coin, and the coin needs both sides.

 

I have to admit, I never much thought about this intersect; I am a user of the systems that IT finds, builds and supports.  Sometimes those systems drive me mad because they don’t do what I expect them to do.  IT should fix them, fix them now because I can’t complete my tasks.  But then, as I was waiting for a diagnosis, I started to ask why and how and other questions.  I changed from being irritated to curious.  And then I was the business owner for the order process in an SAP conversion.

 

photo credit: Wikipedia, Makati intersection

photo credit: Wikipedia, Makati intersection

Like most intersections, we don’t much think about them – they just are and we drive through noting only what we think pertains to us.  Time after time.  We tsk, tsk at the dysfunction that we see exists there, but it isn’t our place to repair it because we don’t own it.  The thing with an intersect is that there is shared ownership, though.

 

For any user to be successful with a system there is a how and a why within the procedure.  The ‘how’ is the way that the system works and owned by IT.  The ‘why’ is the business need for the system and owned by business.  A successful intersection require collaboration and communication between business and IT from the moment that a system solution is identified.

 

Looked at a different way, IT owns the system itself and business owns the content, the data.  If the data isn’t clean, the system won’t work as intended.  The system will be termed as broken.

 

Creating powerful collaboration and communication between IT and business means a smoother intersection.  Defining ownership at the start is the key; it doesn’t prevent the system from acting up, but it sure cuts down on the acrimony.

 

How do IT and business get along in your office?

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

I Have a Dumb Phone

We had dinner the other night, several friends and I, and in comparing stories it came up – as it often does – that I am one of the last people in the US that doesn’t have a smart phone.  Oh wait, it needs the quotes – ‘smart’ phone.  You see, I just don’t see how people justify the extra cost.  I don’t see why these phones are called ‘smart’.

 

I had a smart phone for work.  First a Blackberry which I did come to rely upon to keep me up to the minute on office goings-on when I was away.  And then an IPhone which I never cared for – the touch screen just isn’t for me.  For personal use I have stuck with my little old dumb phone.  Not quite the old brick phones – but mundane enough that I have been told on more than one occasion by the young people who work with my carrier that they never carried that model.  I then quietly point out their logo on the front of my phone.

How do you like my low tech solution to cover up manufacturer and carrier?

How do you like my low tech solution to cover up manufacturer and carrier?

 

Back to the dinner conversation.  It was suggested that I write a blog post comparing the smart and dumb phones.  Hmmm, I thought.  No, I’ll start the post and then see if any readers would like to finish it.

 

So here it is, your chance to tell me one – significant – reason why it is a better idea to have a smart phone.  Why I really MUST upgrade immediately, what I am missing out on.  How your phone has made your life easier, more something than it could be without that phone.  And the, in my opinion, oversized monthly bill that comes along with that phone.  Justify that chunk of change for me, please.

 

Keep in mind that I am not even teetering on the brink of getting a new phone and been considered a lost cause on this topic by many.  But I promise to read any responses with a most open mind.  (Which doesn’t mean that I might not be compelled to ask follow up or clarifying questions.)

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Creating Small Successes on LinkedIn

We think of success in these very narrow terms, specific to an end goal that usually involves improved finances as a component.  Success in this case is an ongoing strengthening of position as opposed to an end goal.  Success is also gaining better understanding of a system or process, bringing us closer to a goal and not just arrival at an end.  A broader and deeper definition of success enriches our ability to achieve meaningful success.

profile-plea

I am not an early adopter of much of anything, including social media.  LinkedIn was the first social media site that I joined, about 5 years ago, at the invitation of a business contact that I respect.  I created a basic profile and left it to its own devices; accepting invitations to connect from business contacts who found me and occasionally seeking out contacts.  I did no research into the power or potential of this platform.

 

Then I decided to get my profile to that 100% distinction (LinkedIn is smart, expecting to hook competitive spirit with this feature); and promptly returned to benign neglect, still not making an effort to understand the intent or possibility of the site.

 

When I found myself on the hunt for a job, I turned to LinkedIn as a resource.  I had incentive to figure out what this LinkedIn could do for me.  It was recently pointed out to me that most working people have very basic profiles and only unemployed people have robust profiles.  Perhaps, up to a point.  The professionals who have clued into the power and potential have taken the time to either hire someone to write a stellar profile or have sat and spent time researching and clicking around within all of the features.

 

It seemed to me that the LinkedIn Groups feature would be an important part of this search.  I had joined a couple of groups during my early days on the site and received the weekly update emails.  I ignored the emails and did not make any effort to understand the how and why of these groups that I had joined because someone had said it was a good idea.  (Lemming behavior, I admit it.)

 

I moved into group participation in the same way that most people enter a pool – slow acclimatization starting with a foot or a toe.  I belong to about 15 groups, some industry specific, some directed to my profession, some for job seekers, and a handful of regional and local groups.  I found that I would get bigger bang for my buck in the smaller, more focused groups, until I had built up enough activity to have impact in larger groups.

 

I have made comments, always aware that my activity is traceable and visible to anyone checking me out like recruiters or potential employers, on group discussions where I felt that I had something to add to the discussion.  I have also started discussions, both using someone else’s outside content and also posing my own original questions.

 

This was a good exercise and then one day I decided to take it to the next level.  I had participated in a discussion where someone I saw as an expert (and a person it would be good to meet) had made insightful comments and I reached out to him using the reply privately option.  He responded favorably, I read his profile and took his invitation to connect as a challenge.  Once he accepted, I realized that this was a whole new avenue to connect with people that I would like to have as contacts.  I now have a good size showing in my ‘met through LinkedIn’ tagging of my contacts.

 

I count this as a success and know that at some point I may use this group of people to leverage mutually beneficial future activities, whatever they may be.  I recommend to all that there is real value in learning LinkedIn and taking advantages of this platform.

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Truth can Mean Pain, Discovered Avoidance will be Excruciating

Sometimes post ideas come from the most fleeting of thoughts and I have to be quick to get the essence of the idea down in a notebook that I carry.  (I was just at a conference where they reminded us all that science has found we forget about half of what we hear/see within 24 hours, and the forgetting just goes on exponentially from there.)

I meant to write down the occurrence behind this post idea, but it is lost.  Certainly this is a lesson that I tried to teach myself many, many times in my younger years.  I was steadfast in my practice of avoidance for too many years.  Foolishly, ridiculously so.  Until I finally saw the pattern.  And realized that truth can have power.

truth

The movie quote, “You can’t handle the truth.” (Most men I know can practically recite the whole movie.  This quote is Jack Nicholson’s character in A Few Good Men) seems to sum up the way that many of us relate to the truth.  For whatever reason we create all sorts of alternate reality scenarios and often these get tripped up in one way or another and we are faced with myriad consequences.  Mostly unpleasant ones.

On the other hand, when people expect defensive behavior on your part you can regain control of a conversation when you tell the truth.  It has taken the wind out of more potential rants than I have kept count, people were actually disappointed because they had clearly practiced words for a protracted argument.  My simple, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t realize my action x would lead to issue y for you.  How can we fix it?’ stopped them up.  Of course, even better is to go to them when you know something might affect them, and I learned this too, finally.

Your right now self might be tired, but your future self has other things to do than to clean up after you.

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Tree Blight & Managing Information

The trees in the parkways for many blocks around my house seem to be affected by some awful blight and look quite bedraggled.  I love trees and find this terribly distressing.  Crews have come through some parts of the neighborhood and removed trees – leaving gaping emptiness where once there was shade, green beauty and a home for squirrels and birds.

In the past, my village has seen fit to mail out announcements about street work or tree trimming or various other activities that residents might worry over.  There is also a regular newsletter.  But not a peep about the state of our trees or the plan to improve the situation.  I feel neglected and confounded.  The activity so far doesn’t seem to have any logic applied.

DSC03514

I am sad for the whole neighborhood, which will have a very different character – but want to know particularly what is being planned for the 5 trees in the parkway right by my house.  I realize that this is a costly correction, but surely some sort of notice is warranted.

It often amazes me that communication somehow goes right as often as it does.  There are so many components to communication, and the person initiating it only has control over their own end.  What should be conveyed, what is the best method to convey it, who is the target recipient?  How much background should be provided?  How much of the solution’s detail should be included?

I don’t usually deal in wishful thinking when it comes to managing information – but my preferred outcome this time would be to turn back time and prevent the blight.  I am saddened at the plight of these trees and reminded of this every time I go along the streets of my neighborhood.

Would you share a moment of poor information management that you have witnessed?

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Formal Writing Habits

A friend called the other day to offer a suggestion for a blog post.  (I love it when they do.)  And we ended up in a bit of a debate.  Well, half of one anyway since we agreed that there is still a place for formal writing styles.  But disagreed whether the upcoming generations will consider this to be a truth.  Millennials now in the workplace, and those upcoming generations still in school. 

 

Cursive writing seems to be a dying art, saved now for posh invitations.  I’m ok with that, a lot of people say that they can’t read my writing anyway.  So too will it be for formal letter templates?  The salutation, indentation of a new paragraph – or my preferred extra carriage space – full sentences, grammar and punctuation?  (Do these younger people who’ve only known typing on a computer even know what I mean by carriage space?)

public domain image

public domain image

 

I am betting on the continuation of business letter formatting.  It is not a just because sort of thing, there is logic behind these rules.  Formal address is respectful and the format helps the eyes and the mind absorb the message where big blocks of unpunctuated text make the eyes and brain balk.

 

Everything old is new again – this has been rediscovered over and over as humans have evolved on this planet.  Formal styling in writing will see a resurgence.  The content of a message must be packaged carefully, in order to retain its meaning. 

 

Your turn – what say you?  Don’t let your younger self that struggled with all the little rules speak here; think about reading comprehension, eye strain, possibility of misunderstanding.  (Hey, if we could maintain this strict formatting using a typewriter doing it on computers is a breeze…  My friend isn’t here to push her side of the debate…)

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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