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Showing posts from August, 2016

Putting the frame on the outside

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The beautiful building where we train at NLP Canada Training is currently covered with scaffolding. The roof is being repaired and replaced, and it will be a slow job. In the meantime, our warm brick is covered with a metal skeleton.

It's not pretty, but it is useful.

Think about this scaffolding when you have to repair or replace the way your audience understands the thing you want to communicate. Be especially careful when that understanding is keeping them safe from the elements in an unpredictable environment.

For instance, people frequently come to me with a version of "I don't like this thing that happened to me in the past and the way it has me stuck now."

Their understanding of the current situation is like a roof: it both limits how far they can see and gives them a measure of predictability in an unpredictable world. It's a trade-off: to protect themselves from a world where bad things might happen, they focus on a bad thing that has already happened (…

The many meanings of "make" all lead back to this: you make yourself

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We'll open this post with a quote from W. B. Yeats, my favourite poet:

The friends that have it I do wrong
Whenever I remake a song
Should know what issue is at stake,
It is myself that I remake.
The Collected Works in Verse and Prose of William Butler Yeats, II, preliminary poem (1908)
What does it mean to make something? The Oxford Online dictionary lists 13 different meanings for this one little word (one of the 1000 most used words in the language). That's a hint: this word is important (and "make" doesn't always make sense, but it does always make a difference.)



You can make a bed without creating one. You can make a change or a mess or a mistake (and sometimes have a hard time knowing which it is). You can make art or make things happen or make yourself go there. But whenever you make anything, you become a cause of something and not an effect.
Making matters because when we make, we are active in the world.
Whenever we are active, we encode both the action and its …

Surprise! Language doesn't have to make sense to be effective

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Recently I read a very good book by Amy Herman called Visual Intelligence. In the end, however, I thought her comments on effective communication should have been defined better. Her advice is very good when the purpose of language is to have information jump from one person to another. But that's not the only purpose of language. There are other roles for language to play, and other ways to use it brilliantly.


While it is useful to be preoccupied with making sense (which means taking sensory information and understanding it as having meaning), it is less useful to be preoccupied with having your words make sense. Here are three times when you might be brilliantly effective by being less clear and sensible:

Your primary purpose is to build a connection. If this is true, your language needs to mostly mirror the style and strategies of the person or people with whom you are speaking. This is especially true when you are conveying information that challenges their beliefs or frames. B…

A bridge can be breathtaking

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This is the boardwalk at Greenwich in PEI's National Park. It allows people to cross a fragile ecosystem and a pond to reach a beach that is absolutely breathtaking (I'll put a picture at the end of this post, so you can get your own glimpse of it).
The boardwalk reminded me this week that the work it takes to build a bridge is not compromise and it's not a necessary evil. It's a necessary beauty, an effort to connect resources and build something that is both useful and beautiful. This is how I like to see communication.
Communication of all kinds requires that we build bridges: we must build them with the craftsmanship that knows what will be stable and what will last in different environments. The work is often painstaking and troublesome and it feels like the slow way to a result. And yet, when it succeeds, communication builds connections that are not only strong and stable: they are beautiful in their own right.
I can guarantee that you will need to build a brid…