The Art of Communicating Well

IMG_2986

Opening tee shot at Lynx Ridge Golf Course; Calgary, AB;
Photo taken by the author

“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” – James Humes

Here is a situation we have probably all encountered: a person you’re conversing with has boundless energy and enthusiasm, and like a thoroughbred racehorse, their message charges forth out of the gates and they are able to cover immense territory in a timeless fashion. However, their words seem to travel at the speed of light, making it much too fast for the human brain to understand, much less, comprehend. It feels as if the brain is experiencing “information overload”, in its highest form.

This approach to communicating can be hard to listen to and understand. In my experience, I have found that it simply is not effective in most settings, whether at work, socially, or otherwise. This is so because what was said often has to be repeated, further explained, and is unclear to the listener.

This brings us to the point of this piece: When speaking, is your goal quantity and efficiency or quality and effectiveness?

If it’s the first one, then you’ll probably reach a new record for the amount of words spoken (quantity) in a two-minute timeframe (efficiency), but the clearness of your message may be hampered. You’ll observe this by noticing people will ask you to repeat the words you just spoke, or question’s will be looming in an effort to sort out what was actually meant, or you may see a glazed look on other’s faces as you could tell the info went in one ear and out the other, like a whirlwind. All in all, this approach doesn’t lend itself to being considerate of the other person, whether it’s one-on-one or in a group setting.  A tip here would be to breathe a couple times, slow down the pace of one’s speech, with emphasis on the words being clearly articulated and enunciated.

“Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow.”  – Lawrence Clark Powell

If, on the other hand, your intent is the second part, your words will be clearly understood with no question’s arising (quality) and this style of approach will be greatly received and appreciated (effective). It is this approach, aiming for both quality and effectiveness, that I am suggesting is the best communication method. As has been said before, it’s often not what is said but how one says it that matters most which leaves a graceful and lasting impression on those to whom you are communicating with. In other words, your message will be welcomed by other’s; thus, creating a win-win scenario for everyone involved. When you encounter someone who talks in this manner, don’t you just want to keep listening to them, no matter how boring the topic of discussion may be?

Essentially, everyone wants to be heard for this is the reason we talk in the first place. Even in small talk, such as the mundane talks about the unpredictable local weather, our voice longs to be heard and noticed. Which of these two approaches will you choose when you next communicate?

Processing the Idea of Process

IMG_2211

Photo taken by the author
Entrance to Pinebrook Golf & Country Club

“In the process
In the waiting
You’re making melodies over me
And your presence
is the promise
For I am a pilgrim on a journey”

– “Shepherd”, Bethel Music

I like what leadership expert, John Maxwell, has to say about process. In his book, “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”, his third law is devoted to what he calls, “The Law of Process.” As he writes, “Leadership develops daily, not in a day.” It’s the idea that any type of progress occurs over a long, gradual, and steady process in a person’s life. Think of someone whom you regard as being successful. When you chart their success backwards, you realize the little steps that person made each day, to the type of person you see in them today.

Let’s face it: I’m a millennial – part of Gen Y. What this means is, at times, I can be allergic to The Law of Process, as we seem to want things instantly. I believe that by my generation cultivating this timeless virtue that prior generation’s have modelled and lived, one of process or being steadfast towards something, we will be making a step in the right direction towards implementing this into our lives.

I love this song, as quoted above, that Amanda Cook sings. The other day, I woke up with this song in my head and I knew it was my song for the day. I’m a words-kind-of-guy, so I’ll write some words about the words of this word-ful song.

“In the process” – Ok, I get it, it’s about process. That is, everything about life, and to do with life, from our deepest longing’s to those areas we would prefer not to go.

“In the waiting” – In the process room in the house of our life, there is apparently a waiting period for us all to enter and go through, as we wait for those desires on our heart to be fulfilled and to come to full fruition.

“You’re making melodies over me” – For me, this is a reminder of grace and how it unfolds throughout my life, in a variety of ways, like a perpetual waterfall. As well, God actually sings (rejoices) over me. In the language of sports, God is cheering me on, is for me, and is my #1 Coach.

“And your presence” – That’s right, God is with me, all of the time, 24/7/365. Immanuel, “God with us”, or better fitted, “God with me.”

“is the promise” – God is the only one qualified to make promises, as He can not lie. He is the one whose promises we should listen to, as He has lots and lots of them for us.

“For I am a pilgrim on a journey” – God sees me as a pilgrim (a traveler or wanderer, especially in a foreign place) travelling along one of life’s toughest and greatest journey’s, life itself.

Quest Element’s

IMG_2089

Photo taken by the author
At the newly-renovated Bowness Park lagoon; Calgary, AB

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea…”

– Antoine de Saint Exupery

In any search we encounter, I have noticed there seems to be different elements to it; three to be exact. They are stages that are staged along each stage of our journey – signposts, if you will – that are helpful in navigating our path along it. Like any great story, there is an enticing beginning, an intriguing middle, and an engaging ending.

The first element is motivation. Simply put, we need it to get going and to get started at something. What’s the spark, the trigger, or the idea to begin that thing on your mind? To start at something means we are motivated to do it in the first place. For without a sense of motivation, why bother at all? There has to be a desire to do the thing we have set out to do. Did someone inspire you to do it? Is it an inner prompting? A goal you’ve set for yourself? A long-awaited “bucket list” item? To break the word down, ‘motivation’, what is your motive for doing it?

Next, is inspiration. Once you have gained the motivation you then need the inspiration to keep going. That is, the determination, perspiration, and persistence to keep on going, throughout the process. Challenges will come and with it the need to keep plugging along. What inspires you? Is it a picture, a quote, or a belief? If so, write it out and put it in front of you so you can see it while you work away. We all need proverbial carrots out in front of us to get us to the next point, and the next one after that. Recognize this and recognize what your’s are.

“Instead of sailing off into the sunset, he hopes to sail into the next century.”

– Dave Anderson

The final element is hope. When you’re inspired by something you have a reason to keep doing what you’re doing. In other words, hope propels you forward, no matter what obstacles you encounter along the way. Hope is one of life’s greatest gifts, for it is the engine that fuels the aliveness of one’s heart. When you have hope, nothing will stand in your way. When you receive hope, take it in for all that it is – for as small as it may be, it becomes the rudder that charts your ship where it is purposed.

In summary, any decided journey that is so dared undertaken is secured by the bookends of motivation and hope, with inspiration being the glue holding it all together.

 

Life Strength’s

IMG_1981

Photo taken by the author along the Ghost River, AB

“Each person’s greatest room for growth is in the areas of his or her greatest strength.” 
– Now, Discover Your Strengths

Travel is also a discovery into who you are and who you’re not. Through all the facets of travelling, you learn valuable insights about what you’re good at and what you’re not. In the before, during, and after stages of a travelling adventure, and everything in between, you come face-to-face with what your strengths are and those areas you may prefer not to do. It can be an interesting awakening into learning more about how you are wired and what parts of the travelling project experience you enjoy more than others. Maybe it’s the research process and you love finding out everything about a certain place you’ll be visiting, or it’s developing a plan for what to do and where to go, or telling all your friends (and strangers too) about your exciting upcoming trip. Or perhaps it’s taking as many pictures as you can on your trip in trying to capture as many of the amazing memories in digital form to take back home with you, or it could be you’re the spontaneous type and prefer to just “show up” and see what happens. Whatever your bent is, the fact remains that you learn the facts about those parts of you that come most naturally to you.

Becoming aware of those traits or skills that you aren’t good at gives further insight into who you are and can be quite helpful for future endeavours, travelling or not. These are life skills and awarenesses you learn about yourself and you take them with you wherever you go and in whatever you are doing. In effect, they become transferrable, as you can lean on them and learn by them in which ever environment you find yourself. The idea of learning what you’re not good at is to be able to focus more deliberately on those areas you are great at, while not getting bogged down in the few area’s that don’t come quite as naturally.

Let me explain with an example. When I was preparing for my trip to Europe a few summer’s back, I had no idea about where I would go or what route to take. Thinking about the order of the countries I wanted to see, along with all the other necessary travel arrangements (such as accommodations, travelling, food, etc), was exciting for me but also kind of stressful, as I’ve never been there before. All I knew was I wanted to see as much of Europe as I could in as short a period of time. So, I went to a travel agency and decided to go with a tour group where all the details would already be figured out. Once I chose the tour group, with the advice of my travel agent, I could then focus my attention on choosing what trip and the length of trip to go on. All this information was in the company’s tour magazine and pretty soon I selected the trip I would go on: a 5-week trip to nineteen European countries. Knowing that the travel details were in place was a great assurance to me, and once I had that settled, I could use the rest of my time to excitedly prepare for this trip of a lifetime.

Know Thyself Through Travelling

IMG_1733

View from Lake Louise Ski Resort
(photo taken by the author on an iPhone 5s)

“The greatest explorer on this earth never takes voyages as long as those of the man who descends to the depth of his heart.” – Julien Green

Travel is the best kind of education for learning about yourself. Let’s face it: we are all “set in our ways”, to a certain degree. Travel blows this distortion out of the water. Like a meteor falling from the sky, so is the explosion this effect has on our way of being. We are shaken to the core and are forced to deal with who we are and who we’ve become. In this state we become open to learning things about ourselves that we may not have been otherwise. The irony of course is those who know us have seen and noticed these parts in us for a long time, so this new information we have become aware of slowly comes to the surface as we reach a new level of awareness. As the saying goes, “awareness is the first stage for real change to occur.”

In the process of learning new parts about ourselves we discover new things about those around us, both abroad and at home. We also gain insightful information about the world in which we occupy a small space in it. Another way of stating this is, as we gain insights about the world and people around us, we reach new heights of understanding about ourselves, our behaviours, thought patterns, and ways of relating to people and events. This is incredibly helpful and useful because this process of learning more about ourselves, and the world around us, leads to acquiring newfound teaching’s in real-life, in real-time, and in real-life discovery.

The journey of traveling has in itself learning’s that no classroom can ever teach us, for it impacts us in the raw and tangible way that walking on distant streets and distant shores can only reveal. The terms “street smarts”, or “learning on the job” come to mind as a communicative effort to put into words what I am talking about. Through the course of travelling we gain an A+ in the study of exploration. We come back far more educated, in so many different areas, than we were heading in. If you are looking for an Ivy-League education, seek not the prestigious campuses of Stanford or Harvard; rather, seek to travel in any part of the world that is not your own and create your own campus.

Why We Travel

13

Photo taken by the author of the Kananaskis Country mountain ranges

“Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience.”

– Francis Bacon

For those who are afforded the opportunity, and luxury, really, of being able to travel – near and far, across distant oceans, lands, and continents; beyond one’s familiar realm – the eyes of the traveller has seen what no words can accurately capture. The act of going sets in motion the various explorations, exhibitions, and encounters one will experience on the expedition. In the midst of one’s travels, we feel within a part of ourselves something not felt before, we see distant, yet nearness of sights, and we learn to think in a way no events prior could have prepared us for. Being speechless about our experiences means the journey has reached a part of the subconscious we didn’t know existed.

We have been given the gift of sight, and travel is one of the most clearest explanations and expressions for this sense. Everywhere we look – from the bustling airport, out the windows of our plane, to landing on foreign grounds, on our group tours or private excursions, to “me time” beach time, even in gathering our provision of food and drink, all of it – our sensory apparatus is taking everything in because of its surreal nature. As our eyes become enlarged, so our mind grows new synapses of electrical signals, and in direct proportion, this weighty and powerful intellect that sits at the top of our frame, expands as well. The fresh visions we see have to be stored someplace, and so, on to the mind these images go. They are contained in our mind’s eye for reflection at a later time, providing warmth for the soul, and the living proof that convinces us what we have just seen is actually real and it did happen.

In travel we experience a whole new kind of search. One of the primary reasons we do travel is because we are searching for something; whether we are aware of it or not, whether what we are searching for is known or to be known. TBD, I think would be the expression for this. Both these terms, travelling and searching, in effect become synonymous: we travel for a search and we search for travel. What’s more, we are hoping to peel off one more layer of the mystery of life when we travel. This is so because travel unveils a whole new way of perceiving the things around us in general, and the events of our life, in particular. It is this revealing we are yearning for most during our travelling adventures. In the process of time and travel, we gain greater clarity than we would have if we were sitting in a counsellor’s chair back home. Some explanations into who we are and why we do what we do require, or demand, a passage to be taken.

Searching for the Sake of the Search – Part 2 of 2

IMG_1107

Photo taken by the author; Three Sister’s Mountain Range at dusk; Canmore, AB

“Every search begins with beginners luck. And every search ends with the victor being severely tested. The boy remembered an old proverb from his country. It said that the darkest hour of the night came just before the dawn.”

– Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

A helpful guide at this point would be to say that a person’s search changes throughout their lifetime. There are various seasons, or stages, that we as human beings inherently go through as we live life. Aren’t you glad you’re not stuck as an infant for the rest of your life, spending your days wearing diapers, crying as your lungs maintain a full-capacity level, and unable to speak a coherent train of thought?

Each stage of life reveals different searches, each presenting themselves with different opportunities and challenges. It is during each stage where we can experience different passions, interests, priorities, or goals than the previous stage. New ones take centre stage while older ones move backstage as the curtain comes down. To illustrate, what a young adult is searching for in their twenty-something is radically different from what our parents are searching for. And that is much different than what our grandparents are looking for.

Like the economic cycle, our life can best be viewed, or understood as, in cycles. Sometimes life for us is on an up-swing while other times it seems to be going the other way. Yet, these cycles seem to take place within an equilibrium, where our lives are constantly being brought back into balance, to be centred. Just take a moment and reflect back over your life, or even this past year, and observe the various waves you have had to ride through.

“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”

– Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Different stages of life present different goals a person sets for themselves. Each of these goals offer different motiving factors for what a person wants in life at a particular time. There are plenty of ways this “search” can be categorized as: meaning, purpose, career, faith, lifestyle, a soulmate, a spouse, dream vacation, travelling, friendships, acceptance, hope, love (and all the various kinds of love that there are), a sense of belonging, and accomplishment, to name a few.

As the saying goes, “The journey is more important than the destination.” And searching, of all the types and kinds that exist, is a journey – in fact, it may be one of the most important journey’s we take in life. Still trying to understand the logic in this, for me the process has in it more significance than the end goal or the accomplishment of our desired endpoint. I think this is because both the fun and the learning take place in the journey.

After all, life is an adventure and it isn’t the arrival or the destination that brings life – to either the search or the searcher. The thing about each of us is we are evolving creatures. In fact, our world and everything in it is in a constant, changing, and continuously evolving state. Nothing is static; rather, it is dynamic. That is the nature of the search.