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Communication is a process by which all parties make themselves co-responsible for the creation of a shared understanding

We are a few days into the invasion of a sovereign country by another sovereign country… and the senseless deaths that ensue. I’m not one for pronouncements but if we can learn anything from history it is this: if we don’t discuss our differences, if we don’t talk, then the only alternative is violence. This is as true internationally as it is domestically. Technology has only exacerbated this fundamental human tendency. The only way to prevent violence is to learn to express one’s differences and learn to hear and understand the differences of others.

“Communication” is not about how eloquent or smart or well-spoken one is. It’s not about the clever tricks of rhetoric or the slick slide deck. My work as a consultant and a coach is to invite people (I work mostly with managers) to approach communication as

a process by which all parties make themselves co-responsible for the creation of a shared understanding.

I am responsible not only to express my ideas clearly (which requires that they be clear ideas to start with). I am also responsible to ensure that the other party has understood what I was trying to say. Conversely, it is also my responsibility to ensure that I have understood what the other party is trying to say.

This is impossible without dialogue: not only my telling you something and you telling me something, but also my asking you if I got you right and your asking me if you got me right… with the purpose of creating a shared understanding. The outcome is that we have both understood the meaning that each other is trying to convey.

People or parties talking without the express work of creating a shared understanding are at best engaging in turn-taking monologues. They are talking at each other. They are not necessarily talking to each other. There is no dialogue.

And while listening is important and one can learn to do that better, nothing replaces the premise of effective listening: a genuine interest in what the other person has to say.

If you know it all, if you’re the most experienced person in the room, if you’re the most senior person in the room, the smartest person in the room, if you think you have forgotten more about this topic than the other person will ever know then you might be far removed from having a genuine interest in what the other person has to say.

photo by Tina Hartung on Unsplash

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Business Communication Ling- English

It’s not always rude to talk over each other

It’s called Cooperative overlapping.

It seems self-evident. Starting to speak before another has finished violates their right to the floor. In formal contexts such as political debates, it breaches the rules. In casual conversation, it is simply rude.

But it’s not so simple. As a linguist who studies the mechanics of conversation, I’ve observed and documented that beginning to talk while another is talking can be a way of showing enthusiastic engagement with what the speaker is saying. Far from silencing them, it can be encouragement to keep going.

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Highlighting content from my September 2021 newsletter.

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Business Communication Ling- Français

Une lettre d’Albert Camus à son premier instituteur

Quelque peu après avoir reçu le Prix Nobel de Littérature en 1957 Albert Camus écrit à son premier instituteur, Louis Germain.

19 novembre 1957

Cher Monsieur Germain,

J’ai laissé s’éteindre un peu le bruit qui m’a entouré tous ces jours-ci avant de venir vous parler un peu de tout mon cœur. On vient de me faire un bien trop grand honneur, que je n’ai ni recherché ni sollicité. Mais quand j’ai appris la nouvelle, ma première pensée, après ma mère, a été pour vous. Sans vous, sans cette main affectueuse que vous avez tendue au petit enfant pauvre que j’étais, sans votre enseignement, et votre exemple, rien de tout cela ne serait arrivé. Je ne me fais pas un monde de cette sorte d’honneur mais celui-là est du moins une occasion pour vous dire ce que vous avez été, et êtes toujours pour moi, et pour vous assurer que vos efforts, votre travail et le cœur généreux que vous y mettiez sont toujours vivants chez un de vos petits écoliers qui, malgré l’âge, n’a pas cessé d’être votre reconnaissant élève.

Je vous embrasse, de toutes mes forces.

Albert Camus

“Votre enseignement… votre exemple… vos efforts… votre travail… le coeur que vous y mettiez…” Être reconnaissant, c’est du concret, c’est une liste d’observations précises.

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Business Communication EME Ling- English

Zoom alternatives with greater safety and privacy

FaceTime is a perfect alternative to Zoom, as long as everyone who’s part of the meeting or chat has access to an Apple device. FaceTime is stable and it allows you to add multiple people to your video chat. FaceTime uses end-to-end encryption, which means even Apple doesn’t have the key to view your chats, according to Apple.

Signal is a highly private and secure app. Think of it as a WhatsApp alternative, and like WhatsApp, Signal offers video functionality. As with Apple’s FaceTime, Signal is protected by end-to-end encryption, powered by the open source Signal Protocol. Unlike Zoom, Signal doesn’t support group chats, so it is really for use when you are having a one to one.

Skype is a solid Zoom alternative mainly because it is nearly as functional. It’s very stable, supports large group chats, you don’t need an account to use it, and it’s easy to create your own meeting and control who’s allowed in. One caveat: Skype isn’t end-to-end encrypted, so for those sensitive calls, you are better with an option such as Signal.

Jitsi is a very cool and secure open source app that’s recently launched to the market. It offers multiple video chatting features, and people joining your chat don’t have to create an account. It’s not end-to-end encrypted.

Houseparty isn’t super secure, but it’s very functional for casual chats and you can lock rooms to stop uninvited guests from crashing your party. In your settings, use private mode, and turn off location tracking. You can also use fake names and birth dates for extra security.

(the above is an abridged version of a longer article in Forbes, accessed on April 4, 2020 – photo by Benjamin Child on Unsplash)

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Business Communication EME International and Cross-cultural Leadership Ling- English Management Management and Organizations PBM Reading and Writing Words & Language Work and the workplace

New project: a monthly newsletter

When my friend Xavier took an interest in my master’s thesis –that was a few years ago ;)– he started suggesting books and journal articles that he thought might be useful to my research. Soon thereafter I started doing the same whenever I bumped into something I thought might be useful to his doctoral dissertation (and later to his research and classes).

I also began doing this to other friends and colleagues. It had been (and still is) a great experience for me and I wanted others to experience the same.

This has been going on for decades now. Of course, paper cuttings and photocopies have become emails with links and attachments.

I am thinking it is time to broaden the circle. And that is why I am creating a monthly newsletter.

The content of the newsletter will follow my consultancy practice and intellectual pursuits: leadership development and executive coaching, that is, people managing themselves, others, their team, and their organization.

My hope is that as a subscriber to the newsletter you will also become a contributor of material that might be interesting to other subscribers. Please send your suggestions by replying to the newsletter email you receive – subscribe here.

Happy reading!

 

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Business Communication EME Ling- English PBM

The art of the elevator pitch

Carmine Gallo in HBR:

According to molecular biologist John Medina of the University of Washington School of Medicine, the human brain craves meaning before details. When a listener doesn’t understand the overarching idea being presented in a pitch, they have a hard time digesting the information. A logline will help you paint the big picture for your audience.

In Hollywood cinema, one of the greatest loglines of all time belongs to the iconic thriller that kept kids out of the ocean during the summer of 1975:

A police chief, with a phobia for open water, battles a gigantic shark with an appetite for swimmers and boat captains, in spite of a greedy town council who demands that the beach stay open.

What makes it work?

The logline for Jaws identifies the key elements of the story: the hero, his weakness, his conflict, and the hurdles he must overcome — all in one sentence. It depicts the overarching storyline in an interesting, straightforward way, rather than focusing on details that might seem meaningless without the context of the bigger picture.

More here.

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Business Communication EME Ling- English PBM Words & Language

Start with the light

Doc Searls on his blog.

So where does [architect] Bill Patrick start, working unassisted by computer?

“I start with the light,” he says. “I say ‘where do we want the light?'”

We wanted our light coming from the direction of our hilltop view toward San Francisco Bay. We also wanted to enjoy that light outdoors as well as inside the house. The result is a lot of glass on every floor facing the Bay, and a deck or balcony outside every room on the Bay side the house. The roof is nearly flat, to maximize interior space within the local limits on roof height above grade, and the whole thing is not only beautiful, but unlike anything else, anywhere. It expresses Bill’s art, and it reflects our original intentions.

In other words, it’s a creation, not a replication or a variation. I also can’t imagine seeing this house as a template for anything else.

The same principle applies for any communicative act – letter, email, text, talk, presentation, etc. Start with the light; with what the purpose of the act is. And work backwards from there.

More here.

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Business Communication Ling- English

In praise of procrastination

Too many people fail to recognise what good public speakers and comedians all understand: that success depends on knowing when to delay, and for how long. The important thing is not to do things first but to do them right. And doing them right often involves taking a bit more time.

via Schumpeter.

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Business Communication Management and Organizations

Visualization of empires declining over time

The largest maritime empires of the 19th and 20th centuries. Visually, they grow and grow and -inevitably- explode.

via Pedro Miguel Cruz .

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Business Communication Ling- English

I am not impressed by first impressions

First impressions fade. Last impressions last.