On Effective Communication

A Really Great Speech That Almost Wasn’t

Portrait of Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.

By Ken Michaels, Guest Writer

As the anniversary of the birth of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. approaches, I’m reminded of two other, equally noteworthy, events that have special meaning to aficionados of excellence in speechifying. And they are especially significant to those in our geographical area; both occurred within 50 miles of Frederick, Md.                                    

The first event occurred on Aug. 28, 1963, when King delivered a speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the celebrated March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom demonstration. The other event was 100 years earlier, on Nov. 19, 1863.

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A Few Words about Words

Oil painting of William Shakespeare.

William Shakespeare, 1564–1616, playwright, poet, actor, wrote “Hamlet” between 1599 and 1602 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamlet).

By Ken Michaels, Guest Writer

In Shakepeare’s play “Hamlet,” Polonius inquires of the prince, “What do you read, my lord?” Not at all pleased with what he’s reading, Hamlet replies, “Words, words, words.”1

I have previously described the communication model in which a sender encodes a message and then sends it via some channel (or medium) to a receiver, who decodes the message and, ideally, understands what was sent. Surely the most common way of encoding a message is in choosing the most appropriate words for the listener or reader.

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Getting the Picture

Bicycle illustration

By Ken Michaels, Guest Writer

Recently, I attended the annual meeting of the BioCommunications Association in Asilomar, Calif. Not surprisingly, the speakers, all professional communicators, were very good and spoke knowledgeably on their various topics.

But something else impressed me during the informal times between presentations, and at mealtimes. These folks not only tended to speak well, but they also tended to listen well.

And there’s a very strong case to be made for the importance of listening in effective communication.

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