Trying to be a More Effective Communicator

Instead of the teacher, I was the student.  I was “grasshopper”.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a Dale Carnegie workshop that my employer hosted as part of our employee development program.  The course was titled “How to Say What You Mean to Get the Results That You Want”.

I was pleased (confident) when throughout the class we talked about several topics that we also cover in the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Train-the-Trainer curriculum that I’ve been teaching for the past few years.

I thought I’d share with you some of the concepts, suggestions, and thoughts that I left the class with.

Some characteristics of an effective speaker. They are :

  • Engaging
  • Credible – they know their material.
  • Good listeners
  • Focused on their message
  • Animated
  • Clear and concise – no ambiguity
  • Empathetic.
  • Articulate

There are five levels of listening (from lowest to highest) – Ignore, Pretend, Selective, Attentive, Empathetic.  At the highest level “Empathetic” (which we should work towards), we are putting ourselves in the other persons shoes.  It sounds simple, but the instructor used a great analogy to make the point.  If someone wearing a size 9 shoe tries to put on a size 13 shoe, it’s impossible.  However, if they take their size 9 shoe and then place their foot into the size 13 shoe, it goes in very easily.  The point here is that an empathetic listener is one who steps out of their own shoes before stepping in to someone else’s.  The empathetic listener truly looks at things from the other perspective beyond their own.

Did you know if you rearrange the letters that spell LISTEN … it spells SILENT

The next time you find yourself talking too much, remember to WAIT … Why Am I Talking?

How we emphasize words when we speak can convey a total different impact to what we are saying. – If you say the following sentence seven different times and each time place the emphasis on a different word each time, it changes the impact of the message.  Here’s the sentence:

“I never said he stole my money”

Impact of the message – Our instructor shared with us a pie chart diagram that illustrated the non-verbal impact of a message.  The findings were attributed to a 10-year study that was conducted by a UCLA professor, Dr. Albert Mehrabian.  The study found that :

  • 7% of a message is impacted by the actual words spoken
  • 38% of a message is impacted by our tone of voice – how we say things
  • 55% of a message is impacted by non-verbals (a.k.a. our body language)

Interestingly, like many studies, these results have been challenged by others.  In other work I have read, the following suggestions were made:

  • If the purpose of your communication is to establish credibility, make an initial impression, or build a relationship, then your body language will have the greatest impact.
  • If your communication is information heavy, such as a face-to-face sale or negotiation, then words become much more important; they may be the most important components.
  • In most persuasive situations in which your body language and words clash, your audience will rely on your body language for their interpretation.

Learning Styles

As a reader of my previous blogs, you’ll know that in the CERT Train-the-Trainer curriculum, we address three different learning styles that people have – Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic.  In this class, there was a short exercise that I thought was really effective; so much so I think I want to include something similar in my instructional delivery of CERT Train-the-Trainer.  The “Learning Style Survey” asks 21 different questions and provides three possible responses (Often, Sometimes, Seldom).  Once I completed the survey, I then had to go back and score my answers.   Based on the point values and total scoring, I was able to determine if I was a Visual, Auditory, or Kinesthetic learner.  I felt the survey was fairly accurate.

Another interesting fact that was shared with us was that on average, 45% of us are Kinesthetic learners, 37% are Visual learners, and 18% are Auditory learners.

I want to close with a Dale Carnegie quote that was included in a handout … “… think in terms of other people’s point of view, and see things from their angle …”  I think that as communicators, if we took this advice more often, we’d be more effective.


Good-bye Topeka … Hello Dale Carnegie

Martians are landing on earth! – “War of the Worlds”; H. G. Wells

“Human sacrifice, cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria” – Dr. Peter Venkman; Ghostbusters

Happy April Fool’s Day!

No joke, we finished our trip to Topeka, Kansas two days ago.  We had a terrific class and an outstanding (unique) facility to teach in.  I was extremely pleased to see how much support the State of Kansas provides local communities with regards to Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and how dedicated the members of these teams are to helping their communities.  On our last day, the class presented me and my co-instructor with a beautiful 35th Infantry Division Association Challenge Coin as a remembrance of our time together.

The 35th Infantry Division  (“Santa Fe”) has been a formation of the National Guard since World War I.  It is headquartered at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and its personnel come from Illinois, Kansas and Missouri.

Along with a picture of the Challenge Coin, I’m including other pictures that I took from the Kansas National Guard Museum.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

On the drive to Kansas, and partially on the way home, I took advantage of my time and listened to the audiobook “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.  The book was first published in 1936 and has undergone several revisions.  It has sold 15 million copies, and has been translated into almost every language on earth.  In the end, the book contains timeless principles on how to make people like you, and how to win others to your way of thinking. I’m embarrassed to say, that in all of my reading, this was a book that I had not read as of yet.  Am I glad I listened to this on my drive to Kansas.  For anyone who wants to be more effective in relating, communicating and leading people, this book is a must read.  And for those in the business continuity/emergency management fields, remember much of what we do is through relationships with others.

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

  • Don’t criticize, condemn or complain. – People rarely blame themselves for anything, so if you criticize them not only are they unlikely to change, but also they may resent toward you.  If you want to gather honey, don’t kick over the beehive.
  • Give honest and sincere appreciation. – People will go long way – sometimes even become insane – just to get the appreciation they need. So be a person who gives honest and sincere appreciation to others. That’s the big secret of dealing with people. If you do that, you can’t keep people from liking you.  The biggest desire of human nature is the desire to be important.  And that’s the big secret of dealing with people.
  • Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Six Ways to Make People Like You

  • Become genuinely interested in other people. – As Carnegie himself said “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
  • Smile – The way to make a good first impression is so simple that we sometimes forget it: smile. When you smile, people will feel that you are glad to meet them. They will feel accepted and get a good first impression about you.
  • Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language – People put tremendous importance on their names. Therefore it will be much easier for you to win their hearts if you approach them by using their names. Unfortunately, we often forget names.
  • Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves – It may seem counterintuitive, but being a good conversationalist isn’t about how good you talk. It’s about how good you LISTEN. Encourage others to talk about themselves and be a good listener. People will feel appreciated and they will regard you as a nice person to talk with.
  • Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
  • Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely – To make people like you, make them feel important and do it sincerely. The desire to feel important is perhaps the deepest need someone has, so if you give it, you will win their hearts.

Win People to Your Way of Thinking

  • The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it – You can only lose if you argue because – no matter what the outcome of the argumentation is – you won’t win their heart. So the way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
  • Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.” – A sure way of making enemies is by saying that they are wrong. People don’t like that, regardless of whether they are actually wrong or not. Such statements hurt their self-esteem. So learn to respect other people’s opinion, even when you disagree.
  • If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  • Begin in a friendly way.
  • Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately – If you want to win other people to your way of thinking, it’s important to make them agree with you from the beginning. The way to do that is by asking questions that they will inevitably answer with “yes”. Every time they say “yes” they will become more receptive toward you. At the end, there is a good chance that they will accept the idea they previously rejected. This is a technique used by Socrates to convince his opponents.
  • Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
  • Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
  • Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view – There must be a reason why people say or act the way they do. Find that reason and talk from their point of view. If you understand them, they will in turn understand you.
  • Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
  • Appeal to the nobler motives.
  • Dramatize your ideas.
  • Throw down a challenge.

Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

A leader’s job often includes changing your people’s attitudes and behavior.  Some suggestions to accomplish this:

  • Begin with praise and honest appreciation – As a leader, we sometimes need to correct the people we lead. But how can we do that without offending them? The answer is by praising and giving honest appreciation first. When we do that, they will become much more receptive to the correction we give.
  • Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
  • Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
  • Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
  • Let the other person save face.
  • Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.” – The best way to develop good traits in others is not by punishing them for incorrect actions but by rewarding them for correct actions. Praise every improvement they make, even the slightest one, and they will go to the right direction.
  • Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to – A good way to get others do things the way you want it is by giving them a fine reputation to live up to. For instance, if you want someone to be diligent then treat her as a diligent person and say so to her. Most likely she won’t disappoint you.
  • Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
  • Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.

Getting Prepared In a Year

OK, hopefully you have been keeping up with our preparedness journey this year.  We are ready to make our next stop along the way.  Here’s what you can do now to add to your preparedness kit:

When you are at the grocery store, I want you to pick-up the following items:

  • one gallon of water (per person, and don’t forget your pets too)
  • A canned meat (i.e. tuna, chicken, ravioli, chili, beef stew, Spam, corned beef, etc.)
  • A canned fruit (i.e. peaches, pears, mandarin oranges, applesauce, etc.)
  • one can vegetables (i.e. green beans, kernel corn, peas, beets, kidney beans, carrots, etc.)
  • two rolls of toilet paper
  • an extra toothbrush
  • a travel-size toothpaste
  • (if needed) any special foods for special diets

Things To Do:

  • Have a fire drill at home.