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Five Communication Resolutions

§ January 1st, 2011 § Filed under communication, small business, training, writing § Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , § 3 Comments

Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.  – Brian Tracy

I guess everyone who has a newsletter, blog, or newspaper column tends to write the type of article in January that I’m about to inflict on you today. It’s the dreaded resolution column. (grin) So here it is. Here are five communication resolutions I would like you to consider as you make your plans for improvement in 2011.

First, resolve to read. Find a good book and enjoy the story. Read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Read blogs and newsletters, but be sure to balance with edited work. Reading good writing will help your writing skills.

Second, resolve to proofread. Read your written communication aloud before sending it into the world. I don’t expect text messages to be grammatically correct (yes, even this grammar maven has given up on text messages), but make sure you include all the words necessary to convey the intent. Leaving a word out can change the meaning completely, creating either confusion or damage on the other end.

Third, resolve to use resources that help with common writing problems. One of my favorites is the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University. This site provides help with writing, from detailed grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure issues to writing related to a job search. If you need more detailed help, including one-on-one coaching, please contact me.

Fourth, resolve to correct your common errors. If you unsure how to use its and it’s, ensure and insure, affect and effect, list these words on a pad near your computer with their meanings. See Spelling: Common Words that Sound Alike. If you can’t figure out when to use good or well or bad or badly, you may want to print out Avoiding Common Errors.

Fifth, resolve to be kinder. Remember that while you may disagree with someone, you can nearly always find areas of common interest. You never truly know what someone else is dealing with or what causes them to view the world so differently from you. Try to pause before you respond to what someone has said, especially if he or she irritates you. Find a way to phrase what you say so that it does not insult the other person. That does not mean that you have to agree with them, but understand that a phrase such as “That’s not the way I see it” is much better than “You need to consider…” We need to find a way to heal the divisions between us. Being kind in our communication is a good first step.

Happy New Year! May your communication bring you closer to your customers, clients, coworkers, friends, and family!

Making the Right Choice

§ December 23rd, 2010 § Filed under communication § Tagged , , , , , , § No Comments

A friend of mine called today on her way home from the grocery store. She was headed to put up her purchases when she realized that the checker had not charged her for most of her items. She had a dozen items, but the checker only charged her for six. She asked me “What should I do?”

My first response was “Do you want me to channel my mother?” She said, “I know. My mother, too. She once went back to a store to return a penny.”

I remember being with my mother when she returned some change. I also remember being with my mother when she was given $10 extra in change (a huge sum in the 1960s). With my friend’s mother and mine, the size of the error did not matter. If someone’s cash drawer was going to be short, it was worth it to make the trip back to the store and correct the mistake.

I warned my friend that the cashier might not be happy to see her, since my friend would be pointing out the cashier’s mistake. I know that when I have returned money that I mistakenly received, occasionally the recipient has looked at me as if I had grown a second head. There have been occasions when I have not heard a thank you.

But I don’t return the money because I expect gratitude. I do it because if the roles were reversed, I would hope someone would return to help me. I don’t know if the checkout clerk at my local grocery store will be expected to make up the money or not, but I know if I were in his or her shoes, it would drive me crazy wondering what happened.

In my friend’s case, the inventory would be short, so there would not be any way to track down who made the mistake. But we both knew the correct route to take. A return trip to the store was required.

My friend called a little later to let me know what happened. When she returned to the store, the clerk was grateful and confused, unsure how she could have made that mistake. My friend was in and out quickly, but it took enough time that she did not have the chance to go home before her next appointment. As she left the store, she saw a fire engine and an ambulance headed back in the direction of her house. When she did manage to get back home, she saw a wrecked car on the street leading to her place.

Would my friend have been in the middle of this wreck if she had headed home and not returned to the store? Who knows? The important thing is that she did what was right. The choices we make have repercussions, whether in avoiding an accident or simply in being an example to others.  For my friend and me, we’ll continue to follow the examples our mothers set for us.

Communication and Conversation

§ December 3rd, 2010 § Filed under communication § Tagged , , , , , , , , § 2 Comments

It is not what we learn in conversation that enriches us. It is the elation that comes of swift contact with tingling currents of thought. – Agnes Repplier

We have so many ways to communicate these days. In one week, I was able to see video of a friend pulling out of the train station in San Antonio within seconds and photos from a friend’s trip while he was overseas.  Our ability to transmit our thoughts to large numbers of people at one time is immediate. But is it communication?

Communication really has four components – sender, message, receiver, feedback. Without the last two elements, you might as well be that proverbial tree in the forest that falls when there is no one there to hear it. You could argue that you are making a sound, but without a receiver, and without feedback, you are not communicating.

How long has it been since you sat with a group of people and really communicated? I was blessed to spend Thanksgiving in such circumstances and it reminded me of how rare those occasions are. No one was texting or answering phone calls. Everyone was paying attention to and participating in the discussion around the table. The discussion was lively, and although there were differing viewpoints, the conversation stayed agreeable. It was a joy and made the meal even more delightful.

This holiday season, find some time to put the phone down. Pay attention to your coworkers, your friends, and your family. Enjoy each other’s company. Actively listen when someone is talking to you. Stay engaged in the real life of personal interaction.

Then share on Facebook or Tweet what happened. <grin>

Happy Holidays!

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