By: Alvina Lopez
Even the most eloquent of public and private speakers could always stand to tweak their communication skills just a little bit. After all, the ability to convey feelings and facts stands as essential to keeping the human species rolling along. Both the Internet and bookshelves sport advice a-go-go on how to get points across as clearly as possible, and the venerable open source lecture series TED does not disappoint in this regard. Its best offerings regarding human connectivity encourage essentials not always discussed in manuals and textbooks, so give them some consideration and use them to launch more exploration into how to grow into an effective, evocative communicator.
If communications with people on opposite sides of political, cultural, religious and other common divides so often proves extremely problematic, try Elizabeth Lesser’s simple-but-effective approach. Rather than arguing, go out for a nice lunch and analyze similarities and gently debate departures to nurture a greater understanding.
Global and personal perspectives alike can benefit from sharpening those reframing skills, as this provocative TED Talk on international relations attests. Julia Bacha encourages listeners to look at stories from multiple angles, using peaceful Palestinian protests that never make the evening news as an example of how things aren’t always as they appear.
Presentation expert Nancy Duarte, CEO of Duarte Design, analyzed hundreds of the world’s most powerful and potent speeches and noted that they tend to sport eerily similar structures. For anyone who hopes to communicate major ideas in a persuasive manner — either to a crowd or to whomever happens to be within shouting distance of the La-Z-Boy — such an observation might prove a particularly valuable advice nugget.
In an age of cynicism, self-centeredness, and evasiveness, sincerity, humility, and straightforwardness resonate well with most folks. Simply saying thanks, espouses Laura Trice, makes for a great start in building and repairing a frequently broken communication world.
Taboos and silence often preclude healthy communication skills, as evidenced by this compassionate clarion call by entrepreneur JD Schramm. He asks that society look upon suicide survivors with empathy rather than scorn, offering up an excellent example about practicing love to open up and encourage discussion; it might very well prove life-saving in some instances.
Viktor Frankl, the globally-renowned psychologist and philosopher, expresses the core tenets of humanistic psychology and the quest for meaning in a manner lay folks can certainly apply to their daily communications. Show a little faith, a little love, a little understanding, and a little belief, and answers about the nature of humanity may start bubbling up.
One way to alter communication for the better involves personal openness to picking up some lessons or two in unexpected places — yes, even demographics whose input so often winds up marginalized. TED invited then 12-year-old author and blogger Adora Svitak to provide such an example by asking adults to start learning about their own creativity and freedom from the kids around them.
As Dave Meslin points out, sometimes people genuinely do want to reach out to others or get involved with their communities; they just don’t always know how to overcome some of the common cognitive and social constraints in their way. Seven of the usual obstacles receive analysis here, so anyone hoping to bolster their abilities to connect and communicate should click the little link and hopefully receive a valuable push.
Social media and digital devices no doubt altered the ways in which citizens communicate with one another and process the world around them, but some downsides definitely come with the package. Most of the more noticed works of MIT’s Sherry Turkle revolve around the results of humanity’s burgeoning cyborg nature, and she notes that heightened connectivity might actually breed isolation more than sociability.
Joan Halifax’s Buddhism and extensive work providing care and comfort to dying individuals in various institutions offers her an intense glimpse at how small, compassionate gestures bring almost supernova levels of light to one person’s world. Truly great communicators should also be truly empathic or sympathetic individuals at their core, so make an honest effort to watch, listen, and learn to what the roshi says.