[If you do not wish to receive my free mailings, email [email protected]]
As we rapidly stream through the holiday season and New Year, I hope you can reconnect with loved ones, whether in person or electronically. I hope too you will take the time to pause and recall both fond memories and any feelings of sadness for loved ones no longer living or no longer in your life. As I was listening to a John Denver CD the other morning, tears started welling for my dad recently deceased and for my childhood idol, Uncle Dave, now long gone. I believe this is my way of keeping the spirit of these two men — both sources of inspiration and also frustration — alive in my head and heart as I continue to make peace with them and with myself.
As work slows down this time of year, I typically need to jump into a new intellectual project to keep my conceptual cylinders cooking, to feel productive and useful.
The article provides a matrix for “Cognitive-Communication Consciousness.” Because it involves a matrix, I will need to attach the entire article. However, I will also paste below the first part of the essay. At this point, I have just sketched the model; I have not explained it in detail. My goal is to develop a model that will help a communicator be better prepared as a thinker and message developer-deliverer to, “Ready…Aim…Fire!” not “Ready…Fire…Aim!” Despite being in the gestation phase, I hope it may pique your curiosity. As always, I would love to hear any impressions and ideas.
In addition to the essay pasted below, here’s a link to my Google Blog:
Best wishes for the holidays and good adventures in the New Year. Peace,
Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW
The Stress Doc ™
Mark Gorkin, the Stress Doc ™, www.stressdoc.com, acclaimed Keynote and Kickoff Speaker, Webinar Presenter, Retreat Leader and Motivational Humorist, is the author of Practice Safe Stress and The Four Faces of Anger. A former Stress & Violence Prevention consultant for the US Postal Service, the Doc leads highly interactive, innovative and inspiring programs for corporations and government agencies, including the US Military, on stress resiliency/burnout prevention through humor, change and conflict management, generational communication, and 3 “R” — Responsible, Resilient & Risk-Taking — leadership-partnership team building. Email [email protected] for his popular free newsletter & info on speaking programs.
Stress Doc Mantra: “Think out of the box, perform outside the curve (the Bell Curve) and be out-rage-ous!”
In our “Hyper-Speed Digital” (HSD) world, the medium is not just shaping the message but also the messenger, along with the mentality of over messaged-stimulated masses. Attention span appears to be shrinking across the age spectrum; many people seem to talk faster and louder, often blurting out the first thing that comes up. This is called “shooting from the lip,” a hasty if not hostile mode of messaging only outdone in dysfuntionality by shooting from the finger tips, that is, sending an angry text or email. Whatever the medium, too often the messaging process reflects the convoluted internal command: Ready…Fire…Aim!
After noting the aforementioned communicational barriers, “Ten Tips for Professional-Productive Communication and Consensus,” are outlined. These tips are the ingredients of “head and heart” communication that:
a) information that is effective and efficient as well as emotionally engaging, b) overcomes interactive barriers to understanding and c) helps build consensual bridges. The “Top Ten” introduces “Four ‘C’s of Civilized Communication” (clarity, concision, calm and conviction). The “Four Civilizing C”s provides a platform for the “Seven ‘C’s of Conscious ‘Cognitive-Communication’” (or clarity, concision, calm, and conviction as foundation for higher level cognition-communication – comedy, complexity and contextual processing).
These concepts are aligned with a tool for people who want to be more inspiring – purposeful, passionate and powerful – communicators, educators, managers and leaders, whether formally titled or not. More specifically, a sketch of a model has been presented for taking “Kaleidoscopic AIM” through “An ‘Action-Intention-Meaning’ (AIM) Matrix for Dynamic-Integrated Leadership: A Conceptual Tool for Expanding Cognitive-Communication Consciousness.”
Taking Kaleidoscopic AIM: Designing a Matrix for “Cognitive-Communication” Consciousness
In our “Hyper-Speed Digital” (HSD) world, the medium is not just shaping the message but also the messenger, along with the mentality of over messaged-stimulated masses. One obvious example: attention span appears to be shrinking across the age spectrum. However, I’m also noticing overdrive speech patterns, especially for the generations who have grown up with the Internet and Social Media (that is, Internet Natives in contrast to us older Generational Slugs, actually, Internet Immigrants, according to Nick Bolton technology blogger for the New York Times and author of I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works, 2010). People just seem to talk faster, (also louder), as if they are racing to get their words in (or heard) before the other party’s ever restless radar is distracted elsewhere or simply tunes out. (Or perhaps it’s just my hearing that’s slowing as, in my sixth decade, I more consciously ebb and flow between moving smartly and purposefully as per my foundational New York/East Coast mode and mentally meandering “out of the creative closet” and into my “American in Cajun Paris,” “N’Awlins/Big Easy” mode.)
In addition to the speech rate, I’m also aware of multi-generational hyper-tendencies – individuals frequently blurting out the first thing that comes up. I was going to say “comes to mind,” but I think certain cerebral circuits are being bypassed: people are simply “shooting from the lip.” More and more, especially when engaged in intense discussion or disagreement, my sense is that people are reflexively following their own silent and internal convoluted command: Ready…Fire…Aim! There’s too much electronic, scattershot, “shoot first, ask questions later” messaging. Once feeling provoked or disrespected, you’re gunning for or putting down perceived antagonists or competitors; inflating one’s self-importance at another’s expense may or not be premeditated. For example, while you expect some testiness (and testosterone) in a Presidential Primary Debate, Mitt Romney’s “$10,000 bet/challenge” in reaction to Rick Perry’s repeated criticism, instantly becomes a “shoot from the lip” classic.
Four “C”-ing Communication
In general, communication short on forethought, flexibility and focus is communication not concerned with the other person’s (or ironically sometimes your own) content and context; it is an exchange not attuned to fears and frustrations, as well as needs, hopes and dreams. In the heat of civilized interpersonal battle, being “ready” and having a thoughtful “aim” before firing – speaking clearly, concisely, calmly when possible, and with conviction is vital. Let’s call this being a “Four ‘C’-ing Civilized Communicator.” And for extra credit, I’ll add a fifth “C” – an ability to employ a wise over a smart “comic” touch, that is, a capacity for emotionally aware and empathic “healing humor.”
And while it’s not always possible to be calm when confronted or challenged, one can be psychologically or passionately responsive instead of reactive. For example, imagine you are in an argument, perhaps over politics or whether a movie was worth seeing, and the other party suddenly tires of the logical back and forth. Consider the impact of each of these two-word declarations. Can you hear and feel the difference between “You’re wrong” (said with a judgmental tone) as compared to “I disagree” (declared with energy and conviction; or perhaps with a tad more tact, “I see it differently”)? “I disagree” meets our “Four ‘C’” criteria: clear, concise, mostly calm and said with conviction. “You’re wrong” shifts the focus from addressing the issue to attacking the individual in a manner that is aggressive, condescending and dismissive. See my article, “Two Communicational Tools Providing Perspective, Patience and Presence: Message and Mantra for Transforming Reaction into Response.”) A pattern of impulsive, random or overkill “firing” tends to elicit defensive reactivity, “getting even,” or just plain shutdown. Especially when the purpose and goal of your message exchange involve motivation-, trust- and relation-building, you don’t want to dumb down or numb out, to silence, intimidate or inflame.
From Lips to Tips
Unless, of course, the communication strategy for avoiding “shooting from the lips” is shooting from the tips, that is, the finger tips, by sending a text or email. Clearly, this is a dangerous option as anger – self-righteous or otherwise – can so easily insinuate itself into and contaminate your message. (Okay, I concede the point; you can more safely give an antagonist the finger.) Remember, an electronic message is devoid of face-to-face nonverbal cues; a reader can’t see your body language or readily detect a “just kidding” tone. And emoticons don’t count as contextual information in a heated, sensitive or ego-driven exchange. Whatever the medium, the use or equivalent of “just kidding” after jabbing the other party can easily confound if not contaminate the communication process. Your words may now be a “mixed message” with dubious results, unless patterns of humor and trust have been clearly established.
Actually, you can outsmart yourself with excessive verbal flourishes or fireworks, if you will, whether on page or stage. There is so much smoke and mirrors wordplay (especially if you are enchanted by your own colorful ideas and imagery) that key points or the core message may be lost in too elaborate or self-indulgent word artistry or argument. (The Stress Doc pleads guilty as charged, and intends to mend some of his ways. More pithy patter, anyone?)
And finally, the other problem when a person chronically deals with conflict electronically is that you’re being a wimp. Rather than walking ten feet to speak directly to a colleague, I’ve heard stories of employees shooting e-missiles, I mean emails, at one another through their adjacent office walls. It’s why I say the “e” in email stands for escape! (Hey, this punch-line not only elicits predictable laughter but often generates out loud cheering from an audience.) Here’s my “Wimp to Warrior Conflict Engagement Scale”: Text-Email-Phone-(depending on the image of that Skype call, I’m not sure this is a major evolutionary step for problem-solving-kind) and, finally, Face-to-Face.
Ten Tips for Professional-Productive Communication and Consensus
Summarizing the above, in today’s HSD times, for “head and heart” communication, a) to be truly informational as well as emotionally effective and efficient, and for the communication, b) to overcome interactive barriers to understanding and c) to help build consensual bridges, the messaging process must be:
1. clear and concise,
2. respectful and real,
3. responsible and responsive; (email [email protected] for the article, “The Four “R”s of PRO Relating”),
4. open and timely, that is, candid and courageous communication needs to occur in close proximity of the conflict triggering event, and
5. at some point, especially when dealing with emotional conflict, the exchange needs to be at least voice-to-voice, though face to face is preferable. (And sometimes you will need a third party or mediator when egos are too injured or inflated and battle-lines are intractable.)
The exchange also needs to:
6. slow down enough to move less at the speed of light and more at the pace and “ebb and flow” rhythm of sound,
7. reverberate through mutual venting, curious and patient questioning-listening and responsive problem-solving feedback; such collaborative back and forth, a) loosens rigid or fixed positions, b) helps adversaries negotiate some ”starting point” or “common ground understanding” that c) acknowledges if not begins to engage the essential needs, frustrations, hopes and goals of all parties and, finally, d) helps individuals to be meaningfully seen and heard (i.e., to feel like “origins” who impact their environment, not simply being “pawns” pushed around by their environment), enabling participants to e) accept some personal loss of expectation and/or control for the greater good, goal or gain,
8. encourage “cultural diversity,” that is, the understanding and valuing of diversity in the realms of race, ethnicity, disability, gender, age, etc., even bringing together the division’s or organization’s silo-impaired; strangers, competitors or antagonists over time better appreciate varying viewpoints and the potential for interconnectivity (or at least affirm that “difference and disagreement do not necessarily equate with disapproval and disloyalty”),
9. stimulate “hands on” engagement resulting in tangible “getting on the same page” goals and action plans thereby yielding genuine “buy-in,” while
10. accepting the reality that issues often remain unresolved, perhaps needing to be addressed at another critical communicational juncture.
Taking Kaleidoscopic AIM: Designing a Matrix for “Cognitive-Communication” Consciousness
Surely there’s need for conceptual tools that will strengthen a capacity for thinking-listening-questioning-responding-motivating. I envision a model to help people become more Four ‘C’-ing thinkers and communicators – as was cited earlier, possessing clarity, concision, calm and conviction. And as a bonus, this model will highlight the importance of:
a) employing the comedic tactically, tactfully and empathically; remember, “People are more open to a serious message gift-wrapped with humor”,
b) developing and drawing on your own inner complexity to better understand – make more tangible and comprehensible – the complexity of the outer world, and
c) motivating if not inspiring the people with whom you are engaged by speaking both to people’s real and ideal self-image as well as transforming a sense of threat, loss, and crisis into time-conscious challenge and opportunity; also helping others laugh at their flaws and foibles while touching people’s desire for imaginatively and effectively designing a balanced-integrated-animated “work-love-play” life path; and, finally, enabling others to impact or simplify (without dumbing down) their world’s outer complexity.
Naturally, a critical component of inner and outer complexity involves viewing people and situations, experiences and events in context, that is, not as isolated phenomenon but in historical-psychological-relational-social-cultural perspective. (So we might have to speak of the “Seven ‘C’s of “Conscious Cognition-Communication”: clarity, concision, calm, and conviction as foundation for higher level cognition-communication – comedy, complexity and contextual processing.)
I especially envision a model-tool for people who want to be more inspiring – purposeful, passionate and powerful – communicators, educators, managers and leaders, whether formally titled or not.
Actually, I have been designing a matrix model based on the interaction of “Individual – Physical, Mental-Emotional – Sources of Cognitive-Communication,” for example, Muscle-Mind-Mood, and a Yin-Yang, “Human Being-Human Doing,” or Flexible-Focused Energy-Consciousness. This interplay between sources and energy-essences is depicted as follows:
n Muscle (Body) + Flexible or Focused
n Mind (Psyche) + Flexible or Focused
n Mood (Heart) + Flexible or Focused
And “Muscle, Mind and Mood” are linked to one of three fundamental components of “Cognitive-Communication Consciousness”: Muscle is linked to “Action,” Mind to “Intention,” and Mood to “Meaning” (As for the link between “mood” and “meaning,” emotions often indicate the intensity or importance of an experience, encounter and/or event.)
The interaction yields six possible matrix pieces or outcomes:
n Muscle Focused and Muscle Flexible = two primary “Action” states
n Mind Focused and Mind Flexible = two primary “Intention” states
n Mood Focused and Mood Flexible = two primary “Meaning” states
The model components, Action, Intention and Meaning (AIM), are the interchangeable building blocks of “Cognitive-Communication Consciousness,” reflecting the interaction of “Mind-Mood-Muscle” and “Focused and Flexible.” Arranging the letters “A-I-M” in different sequences (akin to a very mini DNA code) provides six combinatory states or styles that result from the interaction of “Cognitive-Communication Sources” (“Muscle-Mind-Mood”) and “Yang-Yin Energy-Consciousness” (“Focused and Flexible”). For example, “Action” followed by “Intention” and then “Meaning” yields “Provocative,” while the outcome for “Action” followed by “Meaning” and “Intention” converts to “Playful.” The “Six Cognitive-Communication Consciousness States” are:
n AIM = (Action-Intention-Meaning) or “Provocative
n AMI = (Action-Meaning-Intention) or “Playful”
n IAM = (Intention-Action-Meaning) or “Purposeful”
n IMA = (Intention-Meaning-Action) or “Prospective”
n MAI = (Meaning-Action-Intention) or “Passionate”
n MIA = (Meaning-Intention-Action) or “Philosophical”
I’m calling the conceptual model:
“An ‘Action-Intention-Meaning’ (AIM) Matrix for Dynamic-Integrated Leadership:
A Conceptual Tool for Expanding Cognitive-Communication Consciousness”
[Email [email protected] for the AIM Matrix.]
Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, “The Stress Doc” ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is an acclaimed keynote & kickoff speaker, webinar presenter, as well as “Motivational Humorist & Team Communication Catalyst” known for his interactive, inspiring and FUN programs for both government agencies and major corporations. In addition, the “Doc” is a team building and organizational development consultant. He is providing “Stress and Communication, as well as Managing Change, Leadership and Team Building” programs for the 1st Cavalry Division and 13th Expeditionary Support Command, Ft. Hood, Texas and for Army Community Services and Family Advocacy Programs at Ft. Meade, MD and Ft. Belvoir, VA as well as Andrews Air Force Base/Behavioral Medicine Services. Mark has also rotated as a Military & Family Life Consultant (MFLC) at Ft. Campbell, KY. A former Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service, The Stress Doc is the author of Practice Safe Stress and of The Four Faces of Anger. See his award-winning, USA Today Online “HotSite” — www.stressdoc.com — called a “workplace esource” by National Public Radio (NPR). For more info on the Doc’s “Practice Safe Stress” programs or to receive his free e-newsletter, email [email protected] or call 301-875-2567.