Left to chance

At a training session today, I was surprised and very pleased to get a chair with a writing frame for left-handed people of which I am one.  It was just as surprising to find that of the five people selected at random for my group, three of us were left-handed and there were plenty of lefty chairs to go round.
Thanks to the organisers for their kind consideration - nothing was left to chance.

On visiting National Gallery, Dublin

The National Gallery of Art in Dublin is a place I like to visit regularly. Even when it is undergoing refurbishment its curators find ways to engage visitors. I'll be adding some thoughts on this below shortly. Meantime this quote, alongside the statue of George Bernard Shaw, caught my attention and has remained in mind.  Thought I'd share.  Link to the gallery here.

Audiobook: Public shaming

This month's audiobook:

So you have been publicly shamed

Jon Ronson
Picador, 2015
ISBN: 9780330492287
Audiobook version by: Audible Inc.

This is an audiobook that I will listen to again or get a hard copy version. That's because I found it so interesting and intend to make notes next time. Written and voiced by journalist Jon Ronson I found it "unpausible" - which I am assuming to be the auditory equivalent of an "unputdownable" book.  It is a relatively short listen as audiobooks go, around 7 hours, and I very much liked its delivery style.

The message of 'shamed' is definitely one for the times we live in. I had no sooner finished listening than I noticed that the airwaves were full of calls for the resignation of the chief executive of a major national company, coupled with shouts for boycotting the company's products.  Name and shame seems to be the "stock" phrase these days.... and the prevalence of social media makes it a very easy thing to do.

Starting from the author's personal experience, summarised in a video on his website, we encounter a variety of individuals who have been publically shamed and their efforts to recover the damage done to their reputation. This they attempt with varying degrees of success and it is this bit that interests me most. People make mistakes and it is fascinating and instructive to learn where they find the resources to recover.

What impressed me most about the work was its underpinning research. The author has been at pains to check facts with those who had been "shamed" and those who had done the shaming. That professional expertise also extends to the setting up of the various case studies in which the reporting of the stories catches and maintains attention.  Of course, there is a natural curiosity to find out what it was that people did that in the minds of others was so wrong.  I wondered why the subjects having been put through the mill once would agree to their past actions being exposed again but I didn't get a sense of an author wishing to prolong or give his subjects a second dose of, shame. This wasn't schadenfreude, parading people's misfortunes, albeit of their own making, for malicious enjoyment, it was the opposite. He was looking for answers and finding some.

Learning points
Takeaway actions for me, following this listening, are to be more mindful in
future of the shaming and blaming bandwagons that often roll out on social media and to be more hesitant about jumping on the next one that comes along...

And the next learning is reinforcement of that old fashioned wisdom: That when one points or clicks the finger of blame, three always point back at oneself.

So you really want to shine?

It was a treat last weekend to meet up with some friends to dine in a really classy restaurant in Belfast. It's the kind of place you go to for that special occasion because you just know that the food will be superb and you are going to be treated very well. It's the epitome of great service and attention to detail: table tops, crockery and silverware all gleaming.

The restaurant popped into mind today while reading a newspaper article setting out five tips for would-be writers.  Here's why....

The article's #1 tip was that "If you want to shine, you have to polish".

As a blogger, I'm one of those 'would-be writers' so it's advice that I'll be taking to heart and acting on in future.

Then it struck me that there was plenty of polishing going on in that restaurant and its shine shows. That sparkled my thinking about things that we might do in our personal and professional lives to polish up our act and shine more brightly.

Time to polish up....?

Listening skills... and become more attentive to things people say;
Speaking skills... to become more influential and persuasive communicators;
Presentation skills... to grab and hold an audience's attention;
Being in the moment... to be present for others, at home and in the workplace.

So you really want to shine?  Me too.
What will we have to polish?

Continued Success!


PS:  If you are in Belfast and interested in that restaurant, you can find it here

Are we on the same wavelength?

Back in my old language teaching days, one of the guiding beliefs was that communication had not occured unless the message sent had been received and understood.  So often it can be taken for granted that just because something has been said that desired action automatically follows.
It's a fallacy.

Your message may get heard but may not have been really listened to much less acted upon.
I'm interested in the process of how messages are transmitted and how best to avoid interference on our signals so that the point we want to get across is not distorted.  There will be more of that in future but for this post I would like to focus on highlighting the subject matter of the communication.

One of my former bosses, who had to manage several staff across literally dozens of disciplines, taught me a technique which he insisted I use and which many years later I still find effective.  When I would approach him for advice on dealing with a particular aspect of my own extensive portfolio he would get me to tune him in gradually so that he could be sure that among all of his other competing signals, we were on the same wavelength.

Here's an example from my work at the time which was in the area of GCSE public examinations:

Hi, ....I'd like to talk to you about an issue in relation to 
GCSE: French: Paper 2: Listening test: Recording: Problem is .....

Notice the stages? 

There aren't that many but see how each element fine tunes the nature of the communication.  Makes the issue more precise.
It's not just for oral communication though and a similar technique can be found in good correspondence as a header before the main body of the letter.  Let's see if this one works?

HMRC: Self-Assessment: 2013-2014: Annual Return: Overpayment

It's a technique that's missing from several formal business letters I've received lately.  Rather than progressivley clueing me in, they just start with the Dear formula and launch straight in without providing an indication of the content.  

It also makes sense to provide an indication of content if only for filing purposes. That concise header makes a quick reference point if correspondence needs to be consulted or checked at a later date.

I like to think of that header/indication as a signpost to what my communication is about; getting the direction right from the start.

Communication: Oral and Written: Tuning in: Indicating content

Are we on the same wavelength?

Canons to hear yourself think

Sometimes it can be hard to organise thoughts against the pressure of deadlines.
Think of that report that's due. You've several options to consider and time is short, what one to go for?
Or you have an upcoming presentation and you want to be sure you are in command of the facts. Maybe you are a student preparing for an exam. How best to assimilate all the information and still be ready to pick out the salient points and organise them for your argument?
At times like this it can be hard to hear yourself think.
In preparing for such eventualities I like to take some time to myself and most often play some music to help me concentrate. I am a regular listener to the radio station ClassicFM and it has suggested a playlist for students as an aid to concentration. Take a moment and check it out here .
If you've checked out the playlist you will see that the station recommends starting at the Pachelbel Canon. It's one of my favourite pieces for helping me organise thoughts. There is something about that recurring rhythm that builds and builds that makes it a perfect aid to concentration. At least that's what I have found.
When I first started using it, many years ago now, I put the recording onto repeat play. Then when I heard about a CD that is a compilation of different arrangements of the piece I decided I had to get it. I am on my second cd now, the first which I suggested to a friend to try didn't make it back to my collection and had to be replaced.
It's called Pachelbel's Greatest Hit - the ultimate canon and it features fifteen distinctively different performances of the same music. I love the various treatments including a vocal interpretation from Cleo Laine. And I've found that somehow as I work along to the music the thoughts seem to flow and yes... I can hear myself think.
I'd love to know why it works. Perhaps it's become an anchor for the mental state needed for concentrated work.
Whatever the reason/s, when that deadline for an exam, presentation or report concentrates the mind it's nice to have the big guns on your side.