Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It Never Ends

Barbara Szala and In-Person believe that communicating competently is right up there with putting food on the table and having a roof over our heads. Imagine what it would be like if you couldn’t call out for help, share your thinking with others, weren’t able to say “I love you’ to a dear one?

Those of us with a professional responsibility to convey our thoughts effectively know it is a never-ending chore to communicate well in every situation. For many of us communicating through the written word keeps us bent over computer screens hoping a guardian angel will swoop down, dance on the keys and make sense of our copy. There’s no wiggle room for writers because the permanency of print lets the sometimes good, more often fair, and the occasionally boring live on forever. Most of us do try hard every time out even though we know there is just no such thing as batting 1000. We are enrolled in a very tough school with plenty of homework. Beyond reviewing our own efforts we have to read the work of competitors and pay close attention to the positive or negative comments we get from our peers. I learned long ago that feedback was critical to any communicator wanting to improve. If you are thin-skinned about criticism it’s best to go work in the library putting books away.

All of which raises the question of why should YOU care since you’re not writing The Great American Novel? The short answer is just because. Just because you want to be considered a person worth considering, someone of intelligence, well-mannered and all other good things that come with being taken seriously as a person. The way you communicate says it all. So do your own homework, know what is expected, refine your vocabulary and speaking skills, observe the style of leaders, constantly raise the bar for yourself. Of course if you don’t have aspirations in that direction, simply fold this paper and take a nap. The writer’s discipline has a direct parallel to your own life, no matter what you are doing personally and professionally. This is especially true if you are a model for children and other young ones in your realm of influence. The solid “Reading, Writing and Arithmetic” that served prior generations and society so well are long gone, replaced by dumbed-down statements like “Me and my girlfriend are going to the movies”. Such examples abound. Putting self before others has replaced being other-directed, AND on top of that, using “me” where “I” should be is rampant. Correct usage of the English language is a hallmark of an educated person, right?  

Nothing is more grating to the human ear that hearing a speaker repeatedly use fillers or non-words like “ah”, “y’know” and “like a” in conversation. If you want to hear idiocy in action just listen to the sports interviews on radio or television and count the number of times an interviewee uses “y’know”. Your palms will begin to sweat.  September a year ago was a particularly outstanding month for athletic activity with tennis closing out, baseball in full swing and football starting up. The sports interviews, tennis in particular, were weighed down with tons of “y’knows.” It was certainly charming to hear young Melanie Oudan screaming “ohmigod, I’m going to try, y’know, to play my very best for, y’know, myself and for the, y’know, great crowd there today”. Melanie was just 17 however and when she is decades older we will expect a lot more efficiency from her. Chris Evert, a true champion on the court never did get the junk out of her delivery and today remains incapable of delivering a simple sentence without “y’know”. None of us is perfect, but all of us have to do a better job with our primary language.

And there’s no y’know about that.


  1. My friends and family must have read your blog. They're becoming conscious of how many times we all say "y'know". This was uh, like, an enjoyable kick-off to your blog :) Looking forward to the next post.

  2. Charles: Very few people have helped shape me into the person I am as you have over the years. I owe much to you, and to Barbara and all those who follow your techniques. I can never forget the lessons you taught me, whether large or small. I will take those to my grave. Whatever success I achieved after we first encountered each other, I know I owe in part to you.