Archive for the ‘communication’ Category

Reading, Writing, Thinking

November 30, 2022

I missed a day here yesterday. I had an outpatient procedure that necessitated leaving home about 5:30 am. I blamed the condition on past workplace stress. More likely it was hereditary given a bit of family history of my brothers. Also likely not as much genetic as growing up in the same household. We had plenty of stress there.

Glad to report that the operation was successful. I can’t praise the people at Advocate Sherman hospital enough from the receptionist to the nurses, doctors and support staff. By the time I got home yesterday early afternoon, my LiveWell app had been updated with all the blood test results, the results of the procedure, and the surgeon’s notes and commentary. Crazy good.

This sort of technology and follow up would be fantastic for service calls in my other job relative to manufacturing. Or even the service person who comes to your house. There’s the good side of technology when it’s a servant. Then there’s the bad side (Twitter, Facebook, etc.).

This morning at 5:30 felt good. Back in the saddle. 

I read many thinkers and writers. Never stop learning. This thought came from Paul Graham’s monthly newsletter.

You can’t think well without writing well, and you can’t write well without reading well. And I mean that last “well” in both senses. You have to be good at reading, and read good things. By “good at reading” I don’t mean good at the mechanics of reading. You don’t have to be good at extracting words from the page so much as extracting meaning from the words.

Most people I read consider writing as part of thinking. To me, it’s core to education. They need to do more of it at least from middle school through grad school. I often begin with an idea that came from observation or reading then begin to write. Bless computers—it’s easier to backspace and begin again than cross out and re-write.

It’s a practice. It can be a spiritual practice. Read, observe, think. Begin to write. As you sort out your thoughts, you’ll find new wisdom percolating. You might even change your mind on some things through thinking rather than reacting. I know I have. Even (especially?) through somewhat critical comments.

Know Before You Speak

August 5, 2022

I picked up this thought from the James Clear newsletter (author of Atomic Habits).

Playwright, poet, and writer, Samuel Johnson, on listening and learning: “I never desire to converse with a man who has written more than he has read.”

This seems to fit within the wisdom of the Apostle James, the half-brother of Jesus, who advised thinking before speaking, be slow to speak and quick to listen.

I finally blocked most of Facebook from my feed in 2020 because so much was just passing stuff around that probably originated in Russia, anyway. No thought. All reaction. No conversation.

Johnson was right. Interact with those who have read and thought much. Fewer people. More depth.

Take Care For What You Say

February 7, 2022

She meant well. You know that sort of person. Outgoing, friendly, with a compulsion to share news—especially bad or sad or frightening news.

When they are professional, they are called journalists. We know how to respond—rather to avoid. Don’t read that sort of news or watch that sort of news TV.

Sometimes they are friends that you see often. Sometimes just a friendly shopkeeper.

Sometimes it is you (me).

But, people listen to that. Some people shrug it off. Others are deeply affected. Their anxiety quotient ramps up. It affects their life. Maybe even changing their life.

The Apostle Paul advised us to watch what we say. The Apostle James advised us about the harm words cause. The non-apostle Gary reminds himself, and you along for the ride, that sometimes not saying is better than saying.

Take care ‘lest your words cause unintended harm.

Say The Secret Word

August 9, 2021

Comedian Graucho Marx presided over a game show at the dawn of commercial TV. “You Be Your Life” is the prototype of many game shows even today and in many different countries. One little ploy was, “Say the secret word and win $100.” If the contestant happened to say the secret word, a goofy stuffed duck would drop into the scene with the word taped to its bill.

I started thinking about words today listening to Andy Stanley’s Your Move podcast where he focused on the chapter of James talking about how the tongue can get you into trouble.

I had the opportunity to teach hundreds of young people about being a soccer referee over a 25+ year career. I wondered, when did I say a secret word that helped someone grow or when did I say a secret word that hurt someone?

My wife had an experience where she was talking with a former student from more than 20 years ago. It was amazing what that student remembered from her class.

Once again I felt convicted of anything I may have said that would have hurt someone and sent them the wrong way. Or, as I often tell teachers, you may not know for 20 years or you may never know how you’ve positively affected someone’s life.

Remember this wise advice from the Apostle James, a brother of Jesus–be quick to listen and slow to speak. And be careful what you say.

Make a Difference

May 4, 2021

The author discussed the Apostle Paul’s speech before a Jewish synagogue and then compared and contrasted to a speech before a council of Greek philosophers in Athens. The only common point was the conclusion centered on the fact and meaning of the resurrection of Jesus.

The approaches and arguments could not have been more different.

The conclusion?

Paul wasn’t trying to make a point. He was trying to make a difference.

Irresistible, Andy Stanley

When we open our favorite social media app, perhaps we could pause and consider–am I just trying to make some point? Ah, ha! Gotcha! Boy, that was a zinger.

Or perhaps we close the app and go out to be of service and make a difference in a life.

Tell The Truth

November 12, 2020

A true master never offends anyone, but she or he is always truthful.

I am amazed and in awe of the Desert Fathers who never used 500 words when 15 would do.

They obviously took their cue from Jesus. He could evidently teach for a long time, yet no teaching was longer than a few sentences.

Yet, they spoke the truth with love and perhaps some went away disappointed or didn’t agree, but they were not offensive.

There is a cartoon from early in the popular Internet era where the wife calls from the bedroom, “It’s time for bed, dear.” The husband replies, “Just a moment, I found another error on the Internet I need to correct.”

How hard it is on social media to speak the truth to someone or point out an error (gasp, yes, they do occur) in 15 words without offending. Lord knows I’ve tried myself–and failed.

I forget which famous person (probably attributed to many) said, “I apologize for the length of this letter. I didn’t have time to write a short one.”

To be truthful without offense in a few words requires thought and compassion. Each is in short supply these days.

Communication and Leadership

November 1, 2018

“Did you know what you have to do this morning?”

“No, not until you just told me. The only way you hear anything around here is through the grapevine.”

I was sitting quietly in a business lobby and overheard (couldn’t help it) the conversation above. Later there was more of the same type of conversation.

Obviously somewhere in the organization there is a leader whose strength is not communication.

I grew up a fan of the Cleveland Browns of the NFL. Over the past 25 years or so, I’ve grown disenchanted with the NFL. And being a Browns fan, well, need I say more… (Check out Juventus in the Italian Serie A.)

However, the ownership once again turned gold into lead instead of the alchemist’s dream of turning lead into gold.

Seems he hired an offensive coordinator for his head coach. Then he fired both of them because they couldn’t get along together. You can’t fire owners, I guess.

You couldn’t diagram all the communication failures in that scenario.

What is the root cause of this level of failure to communicate?

Ego?

Pride?

Fear of confrontation?

Inability to think through a situation?

Lack of personal organization?

If you catch yourself in any of this, run for help. Now.

The Gentle Art of Asking

February 2, 2018

How about you? Do you feel like you know everything you need to know?

Whether you are in business or ministry or family–do you have all the answers?

Edgar H. Schein writes in his book, “Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling,” that many people would rather fail than admit their dependency on another person.

How about succeeding together?

Try Humble Inquiry. Asking questions implies that someone knows something I don’t–even if they are a subordinate, or younger than I, or from a different background. I must humble myself to ask someone placing myself in a position of learner to someone superior to me in this situation. It is the opposite of what we are taught in our culture which places emphasis on telling.

I’ve talked often about the skills of listening. Often we need to ask questions to elicit something to listen to.

Schein says, “The kind of inquiry I am talking about derives from an attitude of interest and curiosity. It implies a desire to build a relationship.”

We must slow down to ask and then listen.

Again Schein says, “I find that the biggest mistakes I make and the biggest risks I run all result from a mindless hurrying. If I hurry, I do not pay enough attention to what is going on, and that makes mistakes more likely. More importantly, if I hurry, I do not observe new possibilities.”

He points out in our “Do and Tell” culture, the most important thing we need to learn is to reflect. Before doing something, apply Humble Inquiry to yourself. “Ask ourselves: What is going on here? What would be the appropriate thing to do (Wow, there are hundreds of men right now who wish they had asked themselves that question)? On whom am I dependent? Who is dependent upon me?”

In other words, become more mindful.

“The toughest relearning, or new learning, is for leaders to discover their dependence on their subordinates, to embrace Here-and-now Humility, and to build relationships of high trust and valid communication with their subordinates.”

Schein was an MIT professor and business consultant. You can substitute parent for leader and use the ideas in family. Pastor for leader and transform a church.

Read and digest the book. It’s short and not technical. Good read.

The Strength To Engage Wits In A Conversation

June 6, 2017

Don’t get into a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent.

Do you ever notice how much more powerful and moving a stage play, or even a movie, can be than reading a book? Nuances of the language and conversation can be conveyed in 3D, so to speak.

Sometimes I think we read stories in the Bible and use a “Church” voice. Rather we should often read aloud–with feeling, and maybe six-part harmony.

Take, for example, Jesus’ two conversations with women. People seemed more shocked that he was talking with a woman in public than their race. But one was Canaanite and the other Samaritan.

When we read them, they can sound too dry. Intellectual. I imagine the conversations in full color and noise. I think in both cases, Jesus was engaged in a subtle battle of wits. And in each case, the woman stood up for herself. And in each case there was change. 

The Canaanite women had been a pest. Jesus decided to stop, acknowledge her, and deal with the situation. She stood strong. Her child was healed. 

The Samaritan woman was an outcast due to many bad decisions in her life. I grew up in a small town. I can imagine her shame. She’s alone. That fact alone tells us volumes. This is the social media gathering spot for the women of the town. Catch up on gossip and who has done what to whom. She’s alone. Jesus asks a question. That was shocking. She hardly expected a Jewish man, a teacher even, to speak to her. But she held up during the conversation. Changed her life and the lives of her entire town.

A couple of questions.

How often to you engage someone unexpectedly in a conversation that can move deeper?

Where do you find the strength to respond to such a conversation?

Are We Really Connecting?

May 25, 2017

When you say something to someone, does the message get through?

OK, we already know about kids. How about spouses?

When God says something to you, does that message connect?

I have devoted a good portion of this week learning about a new computer networking standard–a new version of Ethernet–called Time Sensitive Networking. TSN is a hot topic. Perhaps many new people will read my business blog when I write about it.

There are several important new technologies to this standard, and I’ll spare you the gory details. But there is this one–setting a “priority” so that when one device sends a “packet” of data to another, the entire network stops for a nanosecond while that priority packet gets through. It’s like traffic stopping to let an ambulance go by. You have told the network that communication between these devices is a priority and the message must get through.

So, I started contemplating then concept, of course. It’s what I do.

And I thought, when you say something to someone, does their inner dialog network shut down long enough for your message to get throug? Are you being heard?

Or, something you can control–do you intentionally shut down your inner network when someone is talking to you so that you actually receive their message? And in networking, we have what we call data and we have metadata–data about the context of the data. When you listen, do you absorb the entire context? Where they are. What they actually mean. What back story influences the conversation.

Then I thought about prayer.

For many it’s talking to God. Or maybe requesting a package from the Great Vending Machine In The Sky?

Can you shut down your inner networking for a few nanoseconds (or minutes or hours?) to listen for God’s message packet to come through?