Sunday, June 15, 2008

Finding Our Way

Writer Peter J. Boyer from the New Yorker:

Kieth Olbermann’s success, like Bill O’Reilly’s, is evidence of viewer cocooning—the inclination to seek out programming that reinforces one’s own firmly held political views. “People want to identify,” Phil Griffin says. “They want the shortcut. ‘Wow, that guy’s smart. I get him.’ In this crazy world of so much information, you look for places where you identify, or you see where you fit into the spectrum, because you get all this information all day long.”

"Viewer cocooning" refers to homophily, a psychological concept I am interested in. I don't know if he created the nickname, but I like it.

Consider how homophily both combats and complements learning. Finding something we like can lead us to learn about other things we like. On the other hand (I have five fingers), what are the ideas and who are the people we shut out in order to create a life experience that better matches our current world view, our present understanding? The latter reminds me of a life run on auto pilot.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Speaking With Eyes

I was a theater major in college. I quickly learned that there is a stigma that accompanies this.

The biggest misconception about acting and its training is that it is about learning how to lie—that the craft is all about deception. I understand where this misconception comes from, but I have found that acting, at its heart, is about the opposite.

Realistic acting training is about heightening your awa
reness of self and others and learning how to express your most truthful and honest self. It is about freeing up your choices in language and movement so you can more effectively communicate anywhere along the continuum of controlled to emotive.

Basically, acting training cranks your communication ability up. It helps you to see and hear more things people do, including yourself, so that you both have more choices and can react to more input.

As an educator, this is my major appreciation for the craft and study of acting. It is not so much about acting as about performance, specifically, increasing communication performance.

The great actors are great because they can communicate so well. One thing they have is the awareness to make choices that the rest of us do not know exist. Actor Michael Caine digs into the art of communicating by focusing on two things we can do with our eyes.

To summarize a couple tips:

  1. When communicating, blinking weakens you. "Increased blink frequency reflects negative mood states such as nervousness and stress." (John L. Andreassi) To avoid pinning your eyes open with clothes pins, train yourself to maintain open eyes in key moments. (I know a wonderful communication trainer, Michael Grinder, who has trained himself to keep his eyes open for more than 30 minutes at a time.) You can see the difference if you look in a mirror and speak without blinking for 20 seconds, versus the standard a half dozen blinks.
  2. Only look in one eyedon't switch eyes as you make the eye contact with people. (For a large group, this could translate to make eye contact with individuals in the group for several seconds a piece as you speak, versus darting your eyes around the whole group every second or less). Maintaining steady eye contact in one spot conveys confidence to the entire group.

How valuable could it be if more education training was about com
munication training, and that it took cues from master communicators in all avenues?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Talent Assessment

I just spent a couple recent Saturdays with about 40 education trainer hopefuls. Witnessing talent in motion is a beautiful thing.

I've been doing these tryouts for a decade now, and there are three basic groupings of people who attend them: (1) people who are naturally talented group communicators; (2)
people who have the desire but not acceptable talent; (3) people somewhere in the middle - either not as talented and/or lacking some sort of desire to really throw themselves into the requirements of being a group communicator.

These three groupings are general, and could be broken down more regarding skills, knowledge, rate of learning, creativity, humor and all kinds of areas, but it seems that there are always about 1 in 3 applicants who are naturally gifted for facilitation and presentation work. The big question that continues to arise is How do you know?

How do you know when someone is a great facilitator? What makes them great? How much is subjective and style preference? Is success quantifiable? Testable? Why do some people see a non-talented group communicator and think he is good, while others vehemently disagree?