Refreshing Hearts One Sentence At A Time
What is effective communication?
Dictionary.com defines "Effective" as: adequate to accomplish a purpose; producing a deep or vivid impression; prepared and available for service. Communication is defined as: the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs; something imparted, interchanged, or transmitted.
Therefore, effective communication is a vivid interchange of thoughts that makes an impression. As you work toward the goal of effective communication, some questions to keep in mind are: What are you going to accomplish? What are you going to exchange with others? How do you express and leave a good impression?
Here are 7 tips for relaying your message in a positive, thoughtful manner.
1. Use a thesis sentence.
If you are planning an event, requesting assistance, needing supplies, the person to whom you are communicating needs to know why you are communicating, if there is a deadline, and what is going on. A thesis simply helps you have a backbone to what you are writing, providing purpose and limiting your conversation to be concise and effective.
The thesis statement provides readers with the intentions and purpose of your writing.
Here's my secret formula: (which is not so secret, so feel free to share and use it!)
Topic + Controlling idea + Details = Purpose
Here's an example:
Broccoli + provides a rich staple for every diet + because of its versatility, nutrient value, and seasonality.
Narrow down your topic (food > vegetables > broccoli), pick the point you are making (controlling idea = why eat broccoli? Why discuss it? What do you want your audience to do with this information?), and list the details you will discuss in the speech, email, ad, paper, whatever.
2. Be specific.
Assume your audience needs the nitty gritty details. Provide the important facts – 5Ws -- who, what, when, where, why, and how. Don’t leave your audience hanging!
a. Examples of vagueness: “There are a lot of things people like about animals.” What people? What kind of things? What kind of animals? Example of specifics: Jacob loved catching frogs because their bumpy, green skin reminded him of the day his grandmother first let him eat homemade green eggs and ham. (Avoid those vague words like “things,” “something” or “someone.”)
b. Use sensory imagery. Involve the senses – smell, taste, touch, sight, hearing. Think of life and communicating it as a poet would. (Show, don’t tell)
c. Hint: If you can’t use the word – the noun – what imagery will you use to describe it?
Example: The car drove slowly.
Better example: The tan Buick crept along the asphalt, ten miles under the speed limit, and a long line of cars waited impatiently to pass from behind.
Example: We ate Mexican food today.
Better example: The shredded chicken enchiladas at Mi Familia were tangy and spicy, filled with cheesy goodness and covered in their famous sour cream sauce.
d. Using acronyms – the first time a new acronym is used, explain the name and then insert the acronym in parenthesis after. For example: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
3. Consider your audience.
They may not share your perspective, opinion, or background. Think about the topic as someone with a different perspective than you. If you are providing information about a new product or trying to gather interest, assume that you need to provide all the necessary information to fill in the gaps.
a. Example : watch out using “we,” “our,” “us,” or “you,” because the audience may not share your opinion.
Further example: We Martians must follow a strict diet of broccoli and kale, and share this vital diet with all we meet. [Is your audience going to be Martians? What if your audience is filled with Earthlings or Venusians? Will they listen to you or believe what you have to say?]
4. Stay positive.
There are positive words and negative words. When you write a sentence, read over it carefully to see if the words carry a positive outlook and message or one that contrives anger. Even if you are in a negative situation and need to fix a problem, you hold the key to helping create positive energy from the inside out. The difference in the communication types is inspiration versus entrapment. Do you want to encourage or lay down the law? You may be stressed out, struggling, or compromised, but your words have the power to change your situation for the better. Positive does not mean “fluff,” but a purposeful intent to utilize the power of inspiration over discouragement. You have the power to change and impact someone’s day -- every person you come in contact with is the opportunity to make a lasting, good impression.
For example, Positive words: fantastic, marvelous, potential, searching, options
Negative words: waste, fail, should have, missing, blame, forget
a. Instead of placing blame, take the responsibility—this is not only good customer service, but considerate of others. Someone forgot to attach a document to an email that was sent to you. Ways to phrase a reply email:
Example: You didn’t attach the document that I needed for the report. I have to give the presentation this afternoon so send it over asap.
Better Example: Hi Susan, after checking my email, I didn’t see the attachment you mentioned. Do you mind sending that again, please? Thank you so much! I hope you have a great day.
b. Give constructive ideas versus a list of “don’t’s”
As I teach my daughter right versus wrong, I have to give positive examples versus what NOT to do. People learn more and garner more understanding from a To Do list rather than a NOT To Do list.
5. Avoid unnecessary phrases.
Examples are, “In my opinion,” “I feel,” “I think,” or “Just sayin’.” What you write and express is, of course, your opinion. And “just sayin” is pretty much flipping the polite bird to everyone who hears you.
6. Use grammar and spell check!
7. Keep YOU and me out of it!
Keep the focus on the topic at hand, not the audience.
Example: As you set out to fish you think that you know that you want to shark fish that day. You pick that spot. You can see the glisten of the sun on the water, you can taste and feel salt of the water in the air. You think and you look for the bait that you want to choose to fish with. This is the biggest decision that you will make for the day. (What is the focus and topic of this paragraph? YOU are! But are you really fishing?! No! The fisherman is fishing.)
Better Example: Fishing is a tactile and sensory sport requiring the knowledge of many tools of the trade. Any rookie angler can enjoy the glistening of the sun on the water and the tart taste of sea salt on the air, but a true sportsman searches for technique among the lapping of the waves.
Utilizing Story in Everyday Life
What is "story"? What does that mean?
The Definition of the noun “story”: A narrative designed to interest, amuse, or educate
A Story puts an order to events and gives them purpose; Story is a carefully crafted telling of events. Story is conflict. Story is manufactured with a compilation of catalysts, twists, turning points, resolution, antagonists, protagonists, and imagery.
Why do we need story? We need this tool to enjoy the beauty in life, to see the purpose in life, and to know there is more to our story than what is happening right now.
1) Elements of story
i. Protagonist – the main character, the hero
ii. Antagonist – who is the antagonist? The bad guy, the villain. The antagonist is also the perfect opposite for the protagonist. Not always riddled with evil, the antagonist is the “Polo” to the “Marco.” It’s the “Yang,” to the “Yin.” It’s the “Cream” for the “Oreo.” The antagonist completes the protagonist, and hence conflict between the two usually grows and strengthens the protagonist, often after struggling and great gloom. What is your antagonist? Who is your antagonist? And are you your own antagonist? Are you someone else's antagonist?
iii. Supporting characters – the loyal sidekick, the waiter in the kitchen with a full tray of dishes in a chase scene, the unlikely friend
b. Plot – storyline, involving, quite usually in this order: Set up of the situation and location, a catalyst to move the character, turning point in which the hero makes a conscious decision for change, new conflict at the midpoint, followed by the Big Gloom. Then once the hero has recovered a bit, there is the next big turning point, the climax with lots of action, then the falling action (denouement) and resolution.
Very often our lives are like a hero story. The magnificent plan gets muddled or muddied with all the turning points, plot twists, moving boxes, take out containers, and electricity bills. But if you are able, stand back and see that life, business, and community quite often follow the hero plot. In books, sometimes this plan is followed, and movies do stray from time to time, but overall, this is the story of our lives. We are heroes. Quite ordinary super heroes. But you are intrinsically plotted within the story.
c. Aspects of story:
1. Imagery – senses (sight, taste, smell, touch, hear)
What is the story about?
What questions does the story make the reader ask? What will the reader take away from the story?
3. Point of View- from whose point of view is the story told?
a. First person (me and my story)
b. Third person (he, she, they went)
The point of view will dramatically shift each story. What if Hunger Games were written from the point of view of the President? What if Pride and Prejudice were written from Darcy’s perspective? How does the story twist? What if we took the time to look outside our own narrative and see a bigger plan at work? What other characters may need to be a pivotal character, a protagonist, or antagonist? What is the theme of this chapter, and how is it influencing you?
All these are questions that apply to both fiction and non-fiction. What we take away from the process and procedure of storytelling is that the formula works. Why have the formula? Who did we get the formula from? And...Is there someone bigger out there with an even more amazing formula we are trying to find? What if we could see this entire story from beginning to end? What will we see when we cross from this life into the next?
Today is a new opportunity for you. Maybe you need to reconnect with a friend, a business partner, a spouse, an old acquaintance. Maybe you just need a new set of ideas for life in general. I hope you can use some of these tips and ideas to help you communicate more effectively with yourself and others. When I was earning my Master’s degree, working full time, and trying to maintain my home life, I found that my lessons in writing and poetry changed my life. Once I took the time to really think about what I needed to say; once I thought about imagery and how there is more to lunch than a menu; once I understood the desperate need for kairoi (enjoyed moments) and not just chronos (a ticking clock); that is when life started making more sense.
Communicating effectively, finding and enjoying the story in your life, is a never-ending practice. Even when you are mid-turning point, mid-gloom, mid-resolution.
As Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote in his poem ‘Ulysses’,
“How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.”
I hope this inspires you to sit on your back porch this evening as the sun sets and analyze the colors of the sky, listen to the song of the night, and imagine the wind whispering its secrets to the birds flying home. Then take heart, relish the coming new day, and see how your story plays out.
"Bare branches in winter are a form of writing.
The unclothed body is autobiography.
Every lake is a vowel, every island a noun."
~ Billy Collins, "Winter Syntax"
Just a little heads-up for anyone interested in getting some tips on writing or communicating more effectively with yourself and others -- I have been invited by the Early Chamber of Commerce to speak at the August luncheon at Mi Familia. I've been working on my "speech" (if you want to call it that. It's really a list of tips and ideas) this week and am growing more excited every day! Tonight I am going to watch Star Wars to refresh in my mind the classic hero plotline. I'll have to suffer through it with some popcorn and maybe some decaf coffee! Wink!
I might post my information from the luncheon on here afterwards, for anyone who cannot attend. I would love to see you there, though, and you can enjoy a delicious lunch with that awesome queso and sour cream sauce while I give some tips, examples, and reminders about finding joy in our plotlines and honing our communication techniques.
And yes, you do exist in a plot, and on the current page you may be in the Big Gloom, experiencing a catalyst moment, or twisting in a turning point. What will you do? How will it effect your story? And will you be the hero or the antagonist? And what does all of this have to do with a thesis sentence?!
But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (1 Corinthians 1:9)
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