Monday, July 27, 2009

The Meaning of Your Communication

The meaning of your communication ... is the response you get.

While doing your best to persuade a potential client to purchase your product, out of the blue and for no apparent reason, he becomes angry with you. What do you do?

As you are seeking to express your love to your significant other, he or she interrupts you with a question about an item on their grocery list. What do you say?

After what you believe to be a kick-ass presentation that will certainly go a long way toward helping individuals to be wiser in their future choices of behavior, these same individuals go out and behave as they always have. What now?

For some people, in such cases as the above, the tendency is to place blame on the audience.

“You need to ask your doctor to up your meds.”

“You are so hardhearted.”

“Humans are so foolish/sinful/brain dead.”

“Well, yeah, Wilson, I was clear. I used monosyllabic words. I augmented my presentation with PowerPoint/ music/ meaningful illustrations. The failure to realize my intended outcome is on him/her/them.”

Maybe so … but what if …

What if you took a different approach to those circumstances where you see that you are not leading your audience in the desired direction? What if you presupposed that whatever it is your audience is hearing you say … Is What You Are Saying. What if you—if we—took responsibility for the effects of our communication? I am not speaking of “moral responsibility” here but about a communication strategy.

“While I did not intend to make this guy angry, something I did or said set him off.”

“I obviously am not connecting as I intend.”

“Clearly, I wasn’t clear!”

What is more important to you: your strategy or your goals? If Being Right about your strategy is more important to you than the goal of your communication, I suggest you need to rethink your priorities.

When I take responsibility for not realizing the intent of my communication, I maintain freedom and power. However, if I make the failure to realize my intentions about the audience, I am now stuck and powerless to make the difference I wanted to make.

As long as I maintain responsibility for achieving the intention of my communication, I will remain flexible. “This didn’t work, I need to take a different tact, adopt a new strategy.” As soon as I place the responsibility on my audience to hear and respond as I intend and they do not do as I wish, it is over.

You tried.
He/she/they didn’t get it.
The End.

But what if …

If the recitation of facts didn’t achieve your outcome, what about telling a carefully constructed story?

If saying “I love you” doesn’t communicate as you intended, what if you demonstrate your love? Novel idea, I know ... just saying. (" I did that. It didn't work." Then design other ways, ways that communicate to them!)

If extolling the rewards of behaving in such-and-such a manner and piling on examples of disastrous consequences if your audience doesn’t heed your words fails to achieve your outcome, what about a skit – a theatrical performance by actors—which puts flesh and bones to your message? Or what about a "structured experience" (a game) designed to ground your teaching? (When I was a teenager and my dad was quite concerned about my behavior, he took me to a Boy's Detention Center. It didn't work. He then took me to a Fundamentalist Bible College with more rules than God and told me this was where he would send me if I didn't change my ways. That worked.)

Are there times when it is about them? Are there circumstances where I need to drop it, let it go, move on? Sure. Yet, before you do this, I suggest you ask yourself how critical is it that you achieve your desired outcomes. Moreover, even if you think you have done everything you know to do, what if you took a position that says, “Okay, I need to let it go, for now,” trusting that in the future you will design a more efficacious strategy?

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Never to do outrage, nor murder, and always to flee treason. Also, by no means to be cruel, but to give mercy unto him that asketh mercy, upon pain of forfeiture of their worship and lordship of King Arthur for evermore: and always to do to ladies, damsels, and gentlewomen succor, upon pain of death. Also, that no man takes battles in a wrongful quarrel for no law, nor for world’s goods. Unto this were all the knights sworn of the table round.

Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte D’Arthur

When Arthur began choosing Knights for his Round Table, these Knights took a vow, pledging their fealty to Arthur and the Order of Chivalry. There was a dream that was Camelot and this dream could only materialize if the people who were fighting for it aligned their behavior to the vision. There was to be no murdering of innocents, no treason, and mercy was to be given to any who asked for it. Moreover, the weak and defenseless were to always be given aid and comfort. This Code was to be held as a sacred trust because such ideal behavior would ensure the integrity of Arthur’s reign, it would maintain the moral high ground from which he would extend his kingdom, and it would lead to the realization of his vision.

A perfect description of chivalrous behavior is found in Malory’s, Le Morte D’Arthur where Sir Ector describes Lancelot, who has just died, as “a man meek in the hall with women and as the sternest of knights in battle.” He was both humble and fierce—and he knew when to be which. Blending and integrating strength and honor, a warrior’s spirit with humility, was the Code that governed the Knight’s behavior on the battlefield and “in the hall with women.”

Arthur established this Order not only because he wanted his Knights to behave in a way that reflected the ideals of Camelot, but, also, because he wanted the citizens of Britain to have examples that inspired them to adopt these same ideals. What is unique about these two behaviors—fierceness and humility—is that, while they are usually seen as antithetical, in Arthur’s mind, they were behaviors that must be wedded. If evil is to be defended against, people must be fierce in battle. However, these same people must also know when to be gentle and compassionate.

CS Lewis comments on the necessity of joining these two behaviors in his essay, The Necessity of Chivalry.

It taught humility and forbearance to the great warrior because everyone knew by experience how much he usually needed that lesson. It demanded valor of the urbane and modest man because everyone knew that he was likely as not to be a milksop.

If we cannot produce Lancelots, humanity falls into two sections—those who can deal in blood and iron but cannot be “meek in hall”, and those who are “meek in hall” but useless in battle …. The man who combines both characters—the knight—is a work not of nature but of art; of that art which has human beings, instead of canvas or marble, for its medium.

As Lewis points out, these ideal behaviors in the same person are not natural. It is, however, a necessary integration of ideal behaviors that will produce the kind of men and women it will take to bring about Arthur’s vision of Camelot.

Warrior or Servant?
The challenge for most of us is discerning when to take up the sword and when to put it down, when to do battle and when to be compassionate or humbly forbear. Looking back on my life, I see so many circumstances where I behaved as a warrior when compassion and humility would have been the wiser way of being. This was especially true during my 20’s and 30’s.

In the Memoirs of Christ’s Apostles, we rarely see Jesus taking up the sword, so to speak, and going to war. There were some dust ups with the Sadducees and Pharisees, and the time where he cleared the Temple of moneychangers but that’s about it. It seems to me that most of his interactions with people were conversational—and his words were quite gentle. This is especially true when he was speaking with “unbelievers.”

Looking back at your conversations with “unbelievers”—those people who do not agree with you on important issues regarding ideals, values and belief systems—what would have been the wiser way of being: warrior or servant? Which of these two behaviors would have been more effective? Which would have embodied your ideals and values more honorably?

Just something to think about …

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Yellowstone National Park

Just got back from some meetings
that took place inside Yellowstone
National Park. This is a photo of
the sun rising over the lake. I
took it standing in the front
door of my cabin.

Yellowstone is 2.2 million
acres of some of the most
astounding, amazing and
awe-inspiring beauty I have
ever seen.

We took time out from meetings
so as to enjoy the beauty of
the park. This is Colonel and Mario
waiting for Old Faithful to erupt.

Some of the other geysers
in the park.

I took this photo of where we were staying
Lake Yellowstone Hotel
while cruising around the lake

Colonel and I enjoying a meal
at our hotel.

Mike Bresnan, inside Old Faithful Inn

There are around 3500 Bison in the park. Not bad
considering that not all that long ago

their number was around 300.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Peg Pyle (1922-2009)

I haven’t blogged much this past month. Have been darting back and forth across 10 time zones. Africa for two weeks, back to ATL for a few days, out to California, rushing back to attend my children’s beloved grandmother (Susan’s mother), Mary Margaret Milligan (“Peg”) Pyle, in Tallahassee, FL.

Peg was the happiest person I ever knew--forever smiling, even in the worst of circumstances. And it wasn’t because she was oblivious to circumstances, but because she always believed her relationship with God and her family were what mattered most in life, and those relationships were rock solid.

As a young man, I always chaffed at the word “good.” “He is a good guy,” “She is a good person,” etc. For me, it always sounded like the person saying it didn’t know what to say, so it was a catchall phrase that meant nothing of importance. Peg redeemed the word for me. She was good to others, jumping in to serve those in need at every opportunity, good to her children, grandchildren, and great children.

She was also good to me, even when I no longer deserved her “goodness.” But as I understand the nature of “goodness,” this is what being “good” is all about. Peg wasn’t good to others because they deserved it but because this was simply who she was: a good woman.

Think about it.

God doesn’t love us and certainly isn’t “good” to us so much because we deserve it, but because this is who he is. God loves because he IS love. God is Good because he IS Good.

It seems to me that this is how we are to be-have. We love because he first loved us, even in all our sordid messiness. We are good to others, not because they have “earned” it, but because he is good to us, even when we are so undeserving.

In one of my last discussions with Peg, I was asking her forgiveness for something that I had done that hurt her terribly. I was expecting what I deserved: her wrath. What she gave me, however, was a hug, a brief prayer, her forgiveness, and some counsel for my future that was more profound than any of what my high-priced counselors had given me. She did all of this because this is who she was, a good and loving woman.

While some people of faith seem to believe that the way to get someone on The Straight and Narrow is to heap condemnation on wayward heads and hearts, Peg, following God’s lead, knew that loving-kindness was far more effective.

Peg made a difference for good in all of her relationships, especially with her family. Her children and grandchildren are better people because of who she was as a person. And at the end of the day, what greater epitaph is there.

Copyright, Monte E. Wilson, 2009