The first axiom (of five axioms) of basic communication theory is that you cannot not communicate. No matter what, you are always sending some kind of message. As a person with both degrees in communication studies, this axiom has been drilled into my head – it’s even on the back of three t-shirts I own from being part of the speech honorary. Anyway, as I’ve gotten out into the “real world”, it’s come to my attention that everyone wants to know is how to communicate effectively; they want to know how to control what they’re saying and they want it to be universal so that everyone understands – that’s what is effective. Effective communication is like the golden ticket to tour the chocolate factory – everyone wants it, but only a few actually figure it out.
In the world of accountants (in which I work), while this skill is very important to have it’s still deemed to be a “soft skill.” However, the more I’m exposed to this the more evolved my thinking becomes. I originally started out thinking “Really? This is what these people want? I studied this for 6 years, I think I can give them a thing or two” to what I discovered tonight after stumbling upon an article suggested by the Harvard Business Journal’s twitter account and that is this: Effective communication really is the golden ticket to tour the chocolate factory in that it doesn’t ACTUALLY exist; it’s a pipe dream, a piece of fiction that everyone is chasing, but will never, ever have.
In the meantime, people are making millions of dollars trying to sell people a glimpse of what they could have. When in reality, people are different – they speak different languages, they come from different families, they have different cultures and traditions, they have different value sets. This will always result in differences in communication. Thus, there will always be misunderstandings from too little or too much is said or it’s said the same way with different meanings or different ways with the same meanings.
And that, that is the true beauty of language.
Instead of constantly trying to make things the same in hopes of making it effective, why can’t there be articles written and seminars held on learning to be more tolerant and to embrace the differences? Let people communicate how they want to communicate and in ways they don’t even know they’re communicating – this should be axiom number six.
The smell of Dial soap reminds me of my grandpa.
The cleaning company that’s responsible for cleaning the bathrooms at work haven’t been doing a very good job. We’ve been out of soap in our soap dispenser for a few days now. Yesterday, the office that shares the floor with us brought in a dispenser of Dial soap. Today, when I was using it, I was transported back to standing in my grandpa’s bathroom. For a brief moment, I could smell a hint of his aftershave, the remnants of the cigarettes he used to smoke, and coffee all rolled into one. I could even see his denture cleaner and imagined his smile. And I smiled. Then, just as quickly as I was transported to his bathroom, I was back in the office bathroom. I dried my hands and went back to work.
It was a bittersweet moment that made me realize, despite his religious beliefs and differences with my immediate family, I miss him.
Isn’t it strange how something so simple as the smell of a certain brand of soap can trigger such strong memories?
1) I LOVED the color purple BEFORE I even thought about going to my alma mater. So anytime I’d like to use it or anytime I wear it, do not preface your statements with, “I know you went to <alma mater>…” because that’s NOT why I chose the color!
2) Purple is complementary to Red therefore it does not clash. In fact, I have had a number of birthday parties in which the colors were RED and PURPLE.
3) I think you’re full of shit when you say the people in the pictures have to be facing inward when laying out pictures. I don’t care that back in the stone age when you were laying out yearbook pages that’s what you’re crazy teacher told you – I think it’s bullshit!
4) I do not have time nor the desire to read every word you write.
5) I’m not going to harass volunteer cabinet members of tiny ass groups to learn they held a meeting and discussed two items. Let it be a quarterly feature. I (and they) have better things to do with their time.
6) Just because our piece of shit copier doesn’t print the colors exactly the way they look on the screen does not mean they look bad. Before you provide your opinion, look at the DIGITAL edition. It doesn’t matter what it looks like printed – IT’S AN E-NEWSLETTER!
7) Don’t waste my time telling me that I need to make changes to the table of contents, the cover, and add content to a page when I already told you that I hadn’t even done those yet. READ YOUR E-MAIL!!!! I don’t know why I bother even saying these things when I’m not going to be listened to or it’s not going to be remembered.
Whew. Okay. I think I’m good now. I could go on, but this newsletter isn’t going to redesign itself in time to still go out today.
My boss, the Executive Director, has been with my place of employment for nearly 10 months. However, we sometimes get calls for our previous Executive Director who was male. Nearly every time the person calling is informed that he is no longer with the organization or that he has been replaced, they respond with “Oh, what’s HIS name?” (emphasis added). Then, when informed of my boss’s name they typically respond with surprise that the Executive Director is female. It’s 2010 people! Women do lots of things. “Executive Director” no longer belongs to one gender. How about you get out of your box a little and take note?
While on Facebook this morning, I noticed that several of my “friends” had posted this as their status:
“Obama picks Memorial Weekend to go home to Chicago instead of following traditions and speaking at Arlington Cemetery. The President is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces but HE needs a break on the ONE day we are supposed to remember troops and all they’ve done. Repost this status if you think our troops are…worth remembering!!!! I do.”
I have officially been on “vacation” for two weeks now. I’ve been able to sleep in beyond 10am most of the time, I haven’t had to follow any kind of schedule, and today I temporarily forgot what day of the week it was. Not to mention the fact that I’ve had to check a calendar to realize what the date was. In other words, I’m holding out on starting any kind of “adult” life until I absolutely have to.
My life as a graduate student is over. I am no longer teaching. So, where does that leave me with this blog?
I’ve decided that I will now use it as a life and times of a young professional in the 21st century. Cliche? Yes. But, really, what blogs aren’t? Besides things get kind of interesting where I work and my boss is a “that’s what she said” joke away from being Michael Scott, so why not try to document some of it. That’s basically what the woman who wrote the book I’m currently reading has done. If she can get published for writing about the crazy antics of her boss, then I can too.
Work starts back up June 1. I will be working 40 (I say this loosely) hours a week, 5 days a week for a 58 year-old woman with three other women. There are a total of five of us in the office. Stay tuned for my adventures.
Who knows, I may get adventurous and starting posting pics, too!
My apologies for the delay in updating this blog. With the stress of completing my thesis, sitting down to write anything became a nauseating feat. At any rate, here I am done with everything with no excuse not to write. So alas, I shall write. Much has happened in the past two weeks, so we’ll start with a recap of that:
- Thesis defense conquered on May 13 at 2:30pm. After discussing it for nearly an hour, I was sent out into the hallway where I waited for what seemed to be the longest 15 minutes of my life. I was very worried that I wouldn’t be passed because of all of the revisions I had to make. I convinced myself, though, that that couldn’t be the case because the changes were simply cosmetic changes (organization, APA consistency, etc.) and the actual basis of the thesis was good. After convincing myself of this in the first 5 minutes I waited, I proceeded to imagine the conversation my professors were having just to fill time in order for me to sweat out in the hall.
- I celebrated the passing of my thesis with a couple of friends in the bar district of my beloved alma mater’s town. I enjoyed myself to some degree, but it just felt weird being there while my boyfriend was 100 miles away coping with the near death of his mother.
- On May 14, I woke up with a pit in my stomach and was convinced I had to be back to my hometown no later than 2pm. I went to my office to finish packing, loaded up my car, turned in my library books (all 28 of them!), returned my office keys, and hit the road. I made it back by about a quarter to two and was greeted by smiling parents and a few graduation cards. At 2:15pm, however, I received a text message from my boyfriend saying that his mom had just passed away. Weird, huh?
- On May 15, I spent the day celebrating my own mother’s birthday and my graduation by going shopping in Kansas City. Despite the rainy day, it was very enjoyable to spend the day with my parents. Even though I’ve been living with them since mid-December, it feels like I rarely see them because I’ve been so busy.
- On May 16, I drove to Iowa to be with my boyfriend and his family while they prepared themselves for the wake and funeral. It was one of the most awful, yet enlightening, experiences I’ve ever encountered. The only death I’ve ever experienced was my grandpa’s last year. I wasn’t very close with him and he was the cause of a lot of turmoil in my family, but he was still my grandpa and I still cling to the (very) few good memories of him that I have. This loss doesn’t even come close to the loss one would suffer with losing a parent, I had some empathy to share along with my sympathy. Emotions ran very high and by the end of the night I witnessed the breakdown of my boyfriend, his sister who is my age, and a number of other family members who were present including my boyfriend’s dad and his dad’s parents.
As bad as this may sound, it was refreshing to see the coping process in action. In an odd way, I found myself analyzing the situation and trying to apply communication theories to it. I remained an outsider looking into the situation and gained a lot of perspective on how emotional people can get. Eventually, though, I found myself crying as much as the rest of them and it wasn’t even my mom who had passed away. As the dust was settling and laughter through tears came about, I realized why I had gotten so emotional. I realized that I was envious of the closeness of my boyfriend’s family. I had even thought that maybe it was just the circumstances that made them appear to be so close, but after thinking about it, I really don’t believe that to be the case. All I can say is that I hope it doesn’t take something like this to make certain people in my family to realize the importance of not taking family for granted. I really don’t want to be in a situation like this one and have to deal with it on my own.
(Also, secretly, I think I was crying a little for my own selfish reasons in that I had just spent the past two years working my ass off for my master’s degree and one of the main people I wanted to celebrate with was having to overcome one of the most awful things in a person’s life — the death of a parent. Thus, overshadowing (as it should) my accomplishments. Sometimes the baby-of-the-family-syndrome gets the best of me. Despite this very tiny bit of selfishness, I do not in any way regret going to Iowa to be with him, though.)
- On May 17, I drove back to Kansas from Iowa so I could pack and get ready to leave for Boston the next day. It was incredibly difficult to leave my boyfriend and his family, but they insisted I not change my travel plans.
- On May 18, I left for Boston.
- On May 19, I traveled from Boston to Rhode Island to visit my brother where I stayed until May 22.
- Yesterday, May 24, I had an interview for an adjunct teaching position with a community college nearby.
- Today I heard back from the community college. I was not chosen and I am 100% okay with that. I really didn’t want to teach anyway. I just impulsively applied for the job.
These past two weeks have gone by ridiculously fast and the reality of being done with grad school still hasn’t set in. I think, though, when I start full time on June 1 it will. I have a trip to Pasadena for business (partially) in July to look forward to followed by moving to enemy territory (the home of the university that rivals my beloved academic institution) in August.
So, I’m taking this philosophy class this semester called Philosophy of Language, which I thought would be totally awesome because in my mind it would entail sitting around talking about language for an hour a half twice a week. Turns out, I was wrong. My professor is a douche bag and the material we’re covering is so spotty it’s nearly impossible to fall. Not to mention the fact that it’s supposed to be a discussion format, but he lectures the whole class in giant circles AND reads from the books.
What really pisses me off is that I’m discovering that philosophers are choosy, arrogant jerks. Yeah, that’s right, I said it. From what I’ve experienced so far, there’s absolutely no consistency in what they include in their discussions of specific topics. For example, one day the theory discusses how we know what sentences mean, but it neglects to consider its context and demands that what it means be true; if it’s not true, then it doesn’t have meaning. Then, the next day we’re discussing theory and they’ve decided to only consider context for one aspect of the theory, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be true to still have meaning. Plus, they are only concerned with the formal logic of things and fail to take into consideration any other aspect of communication theory. How can you tell me that something means something when you don’t take into account the underlying communication principles?
Needless to say, this class is making me wish I had been a philosophy major because then I wouldn’t have to make arguments that are all encompassing; I could just pretend certain things only exist in certain situations or they don’t exist at all when in reality they do.
Ugh, stupid philosophers — you’re pissing me off!
My thesis prospectus defense was yesterday afternoon. With a few changes in my method, I am good to go. So while I technically got the green light, I consider it more of a flashing yellow — I’m proceeding with caution due to the revisions I have to make.
My thesis committee loves my topic — one of the professors said it was on the top of her favorites of all the committees she’s sat on thus far and the other professor (a very aged professor) said that he actually learned something from my prospectus. Needless to say, they were all impressed. However, on Tuesday, my advisor and I discovered a few problems with my method and knew it would result in a change. He had mentioned that the change in method may result in me not finishing until August. A huge lump dropped into my stomach and panic set in. I started looking into alternatives for graduating by May, which would mean giving up on what I’ve been working on since last spring.
Fortunately, Wednesday morning I had a bit of a breakthrough (thanks to the help of my dad) with the collection of texts that I need and, with the discussion with my thesis committee on Friday, I am back on track to graduate by May. It’s going to be a lot of work (since I will now be incorporate human subjects), but in the end it will be rewarding. It will also give me a leg up if/when I decide to go to Ph.D. school. Plus, I got an extra vote of confidence from my advisor. He told me I was too smart and my thesis was too good to give it up, so he was glad that I had decided not to give up because he wasn’t going to let me, anyway.
Today marked the first day of the last semester of my academic career for a very long time. I don’t want to say forever because it’s quite possible that in 5-10 years I’ll decide I want to get my Ph.D. so I can join the ranks of Professor-dom. They seem to lead pretty swell lives.
At any rate, here is a re-cap of my first day:
6:30am- Alarm goes off; time to get ready
7:30-8:30am – drove to Manhattan, listening to NPR the whole way (my dad and I have been carpooling to work over break and we’ve been listening to it our drive to work and now I’m convinced I’m addicted. Besides, what a great way to stay current with what’s going on in the world without having to take time out of my day; gotta love multi-tasking!)
8:30-8:40 – Walked to campus from my car (parked just a few feet from the door of my old apartment building – so bittersweet). This was probably the most treacherous walks I’ve ever encountered. There was black ice EVERY where and I was hauling a wheelie laptop bag, my purse, and a messenger bag. Luckily I was able to avoid all falls.
8:40-9:15 – Settled into my office, chatted with office mate
9:15-9:20 – Walked to my 9:30 class (again, an awful walk; I having a slight understanding of what people who live in war zones feel like when they walk through a field full of landmines)
9:20-9:25 – Wandered the halls of the building my class was in; turns out the university’s website had the room listed incorrectly. Luckily, there was an office conveniently located with a list of the rooms on it and I was able to get to class on time. I walk into class only to discover one of my past students (from Spring 2009 semester) is in the class along with a girl I used to work with at Famous Dave’s who annoyed the shit out of me.
9:30-9:50 – Professor introduces the course (Philosophy of Language) by rambling about common sense things for a bit, then hands out a less-than-one page syllabus. It consists of the three titles of the books we’re going to read and a breakdown of the grades — 25% participation, 75% 20-page research paper and that’s it. Plus it announces that he will be gone the last month of the semester and we will have to communicate with him remotely about our research papers. He then gives us our first assignment: to read the first essay of the first book…that’s it…just ONE essay…NOT the entire book. As you can see, this class won’t be that difficult. It’s a 600-level course so grad students can take it as well as undergrads. I took a 600-level course as a sophomore – I don’t think this will be a problem.
9:50-10 – Walk back to office
10-11:30 – Hang out in office; send e-mails to friends to get help collecting texts for thesis, scheduled my room for my prospectus defense (it is officially Jan. 22 @ 3pm!), made copies of syllabus, etc.
11:30 – 12:15 – At lunch at Panda Express in the Union with my friend LeAnn (after a month without both Panda and my friend I was having withdrawals)
12:20-2:10 – Hung out in office (wishing I had brought my Philosophy book so that I could start reading)
2:10-2:20 – Walked to Public Speaking class (turns out I didn’t know where the room was and nearly walked in on the wrong class)
2:20-3:15 – Held class — it was great! I’m teaching the honors section this semester and I’ve designed it much differently than the other sections I’ve taught. The biggest difference is I have created a theme and am having them choose general topic categories that they must keep for the entire semester. That theme being – “what makes a good citizen?” (No more super lame topics anymore!) After going through the syllabi, I opened it up to a discussion about why they need public speaking. After several typical answers, I revised the question and asked “how does public speaking help you as a consumer?” They thought for a few minutes and one finally answered “it makes us more critical.” To which I continued pulling answers with more questions, “Why is it important to be critical?” and so on. Finally, we got into a conversation about civic duty and what it means to be a citizen with finally ending with what it means to be a good citizen. They gave me descriptors, I wrote them on the bored, and then I asked them (rhetorically) “Do you fit this criteria?” Many of them squirmed; they didn’t. So I reassured them that it’s not too late and that it’s the purpose of this class to give them the opportunity to change their ways. They then picked from a list of socially relevant topics (food safety/agriculture, education, technology, media, etc.) and turned them back to me. I will go through and assign them their general topics and then it will be their responsibility to come up with the narrowed topic.
Also, they talk and they talk a lot so my plan to have lots of discussions is completely solidified now. I was on the fence about it and avoided doing some of the planning until after I witnessed the dynamics; they were great, so onward with coming up with group activities. I’m no longer going to lecture this semester. Instead, it’ll all be strictly application of the material they read in the book. Obviously, if there’s something they don’t understand then I’ll give more examples. Otherwise, they get the floor.
Needless to say, aside from the black ice booby traps, it’s been a good day and I’m excited about my last semester!