Saturday, April 18, 2015

Say This, Not That - How to Talk to People

In a cult classic from the early 90s, Pump Up the Volume, Christian Slater's character explains to his friend that, despite his voice on the radio, "I can't talk to you." Communication is tough, and it's one of the standards in English instruction that is often underserved in the classroom. Occasionally, I play the game Catch Phrase with students in an activity I call "Communication Skills." I also focus on language choices for the students in all their writing, asking them to combine sentences and think about the concept of le mot juste- the right word.

Communicating comes more naturally for some than others, but it is a skill that can be taught, learned, and refined. These are the thoughts from numerous authors of books around the idea of "Say This, Not That." One of the more interesting and well written approaches comes from California therapist Carl Alasko. Alasko offers great advice when you "have something to say" but don't want to trigger an argument. Many of us can use advice on how to be more tactful. And, we would certainly be more productive in delicate discussions if we were mindful of these few bits of advice:

  • Have a plan
  • Bite your tongue
  • Avoid the unanswerable
  • Don't blame, abuse, or punish
  • Fend off fights

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