Miss Communication: It’s All About the Story

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I have said it before, and I’m more than happy to say it again. Communication is all about telling stories. The better we tell the story the easier it is to get a message across. Yes, there are people who are “numbers and facts” people. But they see the story in the numbers and facts. They’re still looking for the story, they’re just putting it together a different way.

Not everyone believes that, I’ve had it said to my face, but it’s true. Training, you’re telling the story of how to do something. Proposals, you’re tell the story of how your company can fulfill a need (or in the case of non-profit grant writing, how the money requested can make change happen). Social media is the story your trying to tell through pictures and posts. Marketing is telling the story of an organization or product you want someone to buy or get involved in.  It’s all story telling.

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Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

Your right, it isn’t the traditional “once upon a time” kind of storytelling (though it would be fun to see that in some cases). But you take your audience from point A, to point B and on through the end of what you’re trying to tell them. There is (hopefully) logical progression through the message, and if done correctly people will remember it. The happily ever after if you will. A simple list of facts, or steps, or activities, may grab the audience’s attention, but it’s how you weave that information together that keeps their attention.

Communicating information, and doing it well, is an art. Like storytelling. Don’t dismiss the concept without taking the time to think about the application. Make your message memorable. Tell the story.

The World Turned Upside Down

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confident businessman using smartphone on street

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

First, this is not another reference to Lynn-Manuel Miranda’s amazing musical. It’s a reference to something he referenced which I knew about before he referenced it. The World Turned Upside Down was the song the British sang as they marched out after their loss in the Revolutionary War. I used it in 2001 in recognition to the way the world was different after September 11th. The thought fits now as much as it did then.

Now, I’m not looking to talk about the state of the world, the craziness of the pandemic, or what is passing for political discussion in my country at the moment. I want to talk about the little individual worlds we all live and work in, and more specifically, how they’re all going to change once we’re allowed out of the house.

I have spent many years working as a government contractor, er I mean consultant, er that is…what ever you want to call it, it is all the same thing. People who work for a company that does work for the government. For the most part dress code is dark suit, maybe a flashy tie or socks if you’re a real rebel. We are conservative, respectable, and frankly boring.

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Peter Olexa from Pexels

Now that the world has turned upside down, how many people who have gone from wearing a suit five days a week to wearing business casual (heavy on the casual), and in a lot of cases no pants (I’m a pants person, but this is a judgement free zone). How many of us really want to go back to wearing a suit every day. Or going into work everyday for that matter.

Working from home is nice. How many of us are prepared to go back to our open-work-space with maybe a window that overlooks the alley? Personally, I like a more hybrid approach where there are periodic days in the office, if for no other reason than for people to meet face-to-face and remember that there really are people on the other side of the screen.

Are you ready to go back to the office? No, it’s not going to happen today, or tomorrow. Depending on who you talk to it could be a while. But will you be ready to just go back to that world that you came from? Can you look me in the keyboard and tell me that after the newness of being back rubs off that you’re really going to want to be in an office wearing a suit and high heels?

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

The business as usual world has been turned upside down. We’re home. We’ve got both human and animal support in the background when the video calls that could have been an email (because face it, that’s never going to change) are over. We’re not traveling around the country to meet people because we are finding new ways to interact. We’ve found new ways to get the job done. Ways that may be more efficient, less stressful and more fulfilling.

So, let’s start the discussion now about what work is going to look like when we go back. What do you want it to look like, to feel like. I mean, I think pants will still be mandatory, but do you want to go back to your ties or heels (or both, again no judgement here)? Business owners and HR folks, are you going to be willing to bend to the new, and potentially better, normal that your employees found?

I think we’re on the brink of new work place “normal,” but what do you think? Please share your thoughts below!

And So It Goes…

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I promised my kids, and myself, that I wasn’t going to go back into government contracting because it is way too unpredictable. Contracts come and go and change and the person sitting at the desk doing the work has no control over who stays, who goes, who tells the story (all respect due to Lin-Manuel Miranda, but I couldn’t resist). But, after being out of a full-time job for over three and-a-half years, I folded.

I took a job as a contractor for the United States Department of Agriculture on a contract that was up for renewal, but everything looked good for long-term renewal. I started the 2nd of January full-time in DC, staying at hotels and going home as often as I could. The plan was to move down after school was out for the summer. I was looking for places to live and everything seemed good. I was wrong.

Just under two weeks from the end of the contract major changes were made. It wasn’t just me. About 66% of the people on the contract were scoped out of the next phase of work. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t them. It just was.

If any of my former team members find their way across this, please know that it was an honor and a pleasure to work with each of you. I have rarely worked with a team that gelled so quickly and performed to such a high standard straight out of the gate. I am impressed with you, I am awed by you and I am inspired by you. I will miss the Breakfast Club like nobody’s business.

Now I find myself looking for the next new chapter just a few months after I thought I started the next book in the series. Frankly my friends, this story sucks. But it is what it is. This isn’t a great time to be looking for work. So many people are out of work that the market is flooded with people applying for anything that they are remotely qualified for (and yes, I fall into that category too). 

It isn’t easy. It isn’t fair. And, it’s scary as hell. It is the life of contractor.

And so it goes

Miss Communication: Listening

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man-couple-people-woman.jpgToday’s political climate is…volatile (to put it nicely). It seems to me that everyone is yelling at the top of their lungs to be heard, but no one is listening.

 

 

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good debate and thoughtful discussion. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of discussion taking place. I respect everyone’s right to have an opinion, and to share that opinion. But there is no hope of an actual discussion or change taking place if everyone is talking and no one is listening.

So, to resurrect something I used to do here often, a little Miss Communication advice – LISTEN.

Be quiet and listen. Listen to the birds singing, the wind blowing, the kid

s laughing, and to the thoughts of those whose opinions are geometrically opposed to yours. Don’t just hear the words they’re saying so you can tell them why they’re wrong. Listen to what they’re saying, think about it. Chances are you’re still going to hate every word, but you have no hope of changing someone else’s mind if you can’t counter their argument and formulate one of your own that they might listen to.

Communication is as much about what you want people to hear as it is what you have to say. Listen to what people are saying, then you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you really need to say.

Published!

Cover of Dearly Beloved - Eulogies for the Ones We Lost by Zoetic Press
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A while back I told you that a piece that I had written about Carrie Fisher had been chosen for inclusion in the “Dearly Beloved” anthology from Zoetic Press. The publication is out and available for free pdf download! It came out a few weeks ago, but those of you who have been following my other blog know that things have been a little bit crazy for me. Regardless, it’s a great project that I am very proud to be part of!

I don’t think anyone can look back at 2016 and not think of at least one person that left us who had an impact on their life. Actors, writers, musicians, scientists – some of the biggest names in modern history passed on leaving us to mourn and try to come to grips over the deep sense of loss felt for someone we may have never met. I know it’s something I’ve thought of a lot. And every time I see a video I never saw before, or am reminded of Carrie Fisher’s talent I am still taken aback by both her loss and the feeling that comes with knowing you will never get to meet someone who helped to shape the way you see the world.

This publication is filled with people saluting the heroes they lost. They were funny, they were flawed, they were intelligent, they were human and they were larger than life. Join these authors as they explore the loss of someone how touched their life.

Please, visit Zoetic Press and download the anthology. I don’t get any royalties or anything, but I would love to hear what everyone thinks.

Published!

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In December I decided that I was going to put myself out there a little more and start sending entries to writing contests. So far, I’ve entered one. I found out last week that I’ve been chosen for publication in that contest!

zee-blk“Writer, Warrior, Royalty: Carrie Fisher” will appear in the Zoetic Press Dearly Beloved Anthology later this year. The anthology focuses on the large number of entertainers, icons and larger than life personalities that passed on in 2016, and how they impacted the lives of people they never met.

The piece being published is in the same vain but significantly different to the piece I wrote about Carrie Fisher a couple of months ago. Fisher remains a hero of mine, and I still find myself thinking about her passing with sadness. It’s strange when someone you’ve never met has such a lasting impact. That’s part of what I tried to get across in the piece I wrote for Dearly Beloved.

I have to say, I’m really excited about this opportunity. I know it’s a small step, but it is a step forward, and I haven’t had too many of those lately. I’m not stopping here, I have a second novel in the works (the first having been completed, ripped apart and eventually put on the shelf for a bit because I’m having trouble on getting from point C to point A- it’s a fantasy chick-lit piece so that is actually an accurate description of the issue). I’d love to get that completed in the next couple of months, but timing is up in the air with everything else going on. There are several short story and essay contests I have my eye on as well. Those may be a little more doable with the time I have available, so I’m starting to put some ideas together for those.

I’ll share publication dates and additional information as it becomes available. Until then, there are more stories waiting to be told. On to the next…

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Tell Me a Story Tuesday: Waiting Room Edition

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woman-865111_960_720I haven’t done a Tell Me a Story Tuesday for a while, so I thought it was time. For those of you who don’t know how this works, I tell you a little story and then ask you to tell one too. There are, of course, a few rules, but for the most part, you’re free to do your thing.

No one likes to sit in waiting rooms, well maybe more correctly, no one likes to wait. You do meet some interesting people and see some interesting things when you’re waiting. I think the level of interesting depends on where you’re waiting. For example, the ER waiting room can show you the best and worse of humanity. A doctor’s office or the waiting room at a mechanics bring a different atmosphere and clientele.

At the moment I’m at the car dealership getting a free oil change, sitting in a waiting room. This one is pretty tame. Well except when I looked up a minute ago and saw a car backing up into the waiting room. I get that it’s basically a big space, but you don’t usually glance up and see the taillights of a vehicle while you’re sitting inside. Everyone in the room got quiet and turned and watched it. Then went back to what they were doing.

Okay, that’s not the most exciting story. But as I’m writing this I drew a blank on the other story I had in mind. But my point is, everyone has a story. A kid who were pitching a fit. Someone on the phone who was having a very personal conversation that you really wish you didn’t hear. A couple having a fight or…the opposite…

So it’s your turn. What happened in a waiting room that you’ll never forget? Comment below with your story, or post a link to your own page with a story on it. It can be funny, it can be sad, it doesn’t even have to be real! Come on, tell me a story!