Continuing from yesterday's post, I thought I'd share a few reminders on how community members as educators (and everyone else) can best communicate to their audience. Many thanks to Merlin Mann and Dave Pollard for many of the links.
First, to get to know your audience and to make the storytelling approach work, you have to listen. From Becoming a Better Listener:
Genuinely interested: A successful listener is genuinely interested in what the other person has to say.
Listen nonjudgmentally: [...] achieving what Carl Rogers termed "unconditional positive regard." [...] Nothing nips trust like critical judgment and negative labeling. Beware of conveying disapproval through your intonation, leading questions, or nonverbal responses.
Use a variety of listening skills: Paraphrasing is restating another's comment in your own words. Good clarifying questions, used sparingly, can be most helpful in encouraging others to examine the causes and possible solutions to their problems.
Reflective listening: [...] You are not getting into the blame game. You are neither saying "You're wrong!" nor are you saying "I'm wrong." By listening to feelings [...] you are simply communicating that you are listening to them at the deepest level. It is like verbal judo. Instead of meeting force with force, you are letting their anger dissipate into the wind. Once the angry person has vented his or her feelings and you refuse to get caught up in a shouting match, he or she will begin to calm down.
Be alert to your own prejudices: [...] you may want to think specifically about the impact of your prejudices on your ability to really hear what's being commmunicated. Often, we are unaware how strongly our prejudices influence our willingness and ability to hear. The fact is: any prejudice, valid of not, tends to obscure the message.
Gentility: Be kind. People appear to be good listeners when they want to listen to others. If you look like you’re listening "just because," then your listening skills will appear less than perfect.
Do you listen to what other people say?: [...] the more you listen to what they say the easier it is to respond.
Do you listen for their intent?: [...] What is their emotional state as they're talking to you? Are they trusting and forthcoming—or guarded and defensive? Sure, the words that they use are important, but they're often only a small part of what is being communicated to you.
Do you listen to learn?: The best ideas have a funny way of coming from the most unlikely sources. That's why it's so important to be open to learning from anyone that you talk to. In fact, there is a new trend in organizations called Reverse Mentoring where executives are mentored by the younger staff at the bottom of the corporate hierarchy. This helps to ground them in the reality of working on the front lines, and can be a great reminder of how things really work, or don't, far from a position of power and privilege.
Do you show them that you're listening?: Maintaining eye contact, nodding and restating key points are simple ways to show the other person that you're listening. And if you don't think this is important, think about the last time that you talked to someone who was looking around the room like they were scouting for someone better to talk to; did this make you energized to talk to them?
Next up is talking: how best to get your message across? For years, John Sawatsky was one of Canada's leading investigative reporters. He later became a journalism professor at Ottawa's Carleton University. From this All Things Considered article:
Sawatsky’s rules are simple, but he says they get broken all the time: Don’t ask yes-or-no questions, keep questions short and avoid charged words, which can distract people.
The best questions, argues Sawatsky, are like clean windows. “A clean window gives a perfect view. When we ask a question, we want to get a window into the source. When you put values in your questions, it’s like putting dirt on the window. It obscures the view of the lake beyond. People shouldn’t notice the question in an interview, just like they shouldn’t notice the window. They should be looking at the lake.”
Via Dave Pollard:
Three Ways to Persuade: Jeremy Heigh describes three ways to persuade people to do something:
Pitching (carefully crafting the 'elevator pitch' that will, if they're ready, blow them away when they hear it);
Flipping (finding the 'tipping point' where the person who you are trying to persuade is most open and vulnerable to your argument, and focusing on that; and,
Pinging (bouncing ideas and information and opportunities for communication off the person you want to persuade, and then listening and paying close attention to the responses until you know so much about that person and their wants and needs that you don't need to persuade them, you just respond to what they've already told you they'll 'buy').
• What did you learn [today]?
• How did you learn it?
• Did it mean anything to you? Why or why not?
• What would help you understand it better?
• How might you apply this learning?
• Can you make a connection to what you learned?
• Did it make something else you learned come into your mind?
• Did it clarify anything you had wondered about in the past?
• Is there anything else you might like to learn about this topic?
• Suppose you had to teach this to a younger student? Could you write a description of how you would do this?
On the process itself:
At first, they look at me like I have lost my mind. They have not been asked such [questions] before. However, I’ve found that it leads me down a road where I can really assist them in clarifying what is going on inside their heads. I need more questions that I can think about to help them reflect about their learning.