How to communicate and write effectively
One of the tougher realities that I had to come to grips with in life, is that my ideas have rarely been accepted. More serious, in offering my views, I was often seen as aggressive, pushy, antagonistic, opinionated, and cynical.
Then I believed I often spoke with good intentions, trying to provide a view that others might have missed, to lead to a better outcome. I felt wronged. I was asked for a view, I tried my best to provide a good one, and then I was blamed for it. So I did the most natural thing. I tried to explain this away: "Well, people just cannot accept the truth. They ask for an honest view, but what they really wanted is nuanced honesty."
Of course, with hindsight, I realised, with a fair amount of pain and regret, that I was obviously wrong.
Sometimes, my views were just not very good.
But mostly, I was just so fixated on giving my view that I forgot what was really important, how to add value to others.
Strangely enough, I only came to realise my own flaws only through these 2 lectures on writing, by Larry McEnerney (Director of the University of Chicago’s Writing Program). Even though he teaches a writing class, McEnerney's value extends far beyond writing. He has thought really deeply about the why and how of communications, aptly surmised below.
"We are used to explaining stuff because we want to demonstrate that we have understood something. We want to reveal to the world what's inside of our heads. Is writing about conveying your ideas? No, it's not. Writing is not communicating your ideas to your readers. Writing is changing your readers' ideas. No one cares what ideas you have (unless you are in a position of power, or the other party is paid to care)."
Even though McEnerney's advice is simple - it really is a huge challenge to follow. I still struggle with how I frame things today, and my rate of successfully adding value in the way the audience is open to receiving remains poor. When I fail, I inevitably think back on these 2 lectures which serve as a trigger for me to ponder if my ego and eagerness to be right had again gone unchecked, and to think from the perspective of the audience.
I strongly recommend these lectures (especially the first one. The second does venture more into academic writing).