Essay:communicating effectively

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This essay is an original work by [[User:AlaskanEconomy|AlaskanEconomy]]. Please comment only on the talk page.

Effective communication is a deliberative act. This is a learned skill rather than an innate talent.

In order to foster better communication I've decided to highlight 6 key components: 1)Don't be intellectually lazy 2)Show don't tell 3)Be deliberate in your delivery 4)Choose the medium which best communicates your message 5)Tailor your argument for your audience 6)Listen to feedback

Don't be intellectually lazy

If you want to communicate something you are taking a burden on to your self, there is a reason orators have been well paid for the last 3000 years. The fact that you have something true and important to say is not enough to get you an audience. If you want to be able to communicate you have to know your own argument forwards and backwards from top to bottom left to right inside and out.

An example of people who did not take this step are the hippies, when communicating peace. Peace is largely a good thing, it leads to economic prosperity (assuming you do not accept Keynesian economics) and is a state of being that is good for freedoms and personal liberties. In spite of this the hippies never bothered to examine how peace came to be, how peace end, or what situations are best to prolong peace. They attacked programs like Mutually assured destruction and thrashed about creating a lot of noise but utterly unable to communicate

Any time you are dealing with any controversial subject you can expect your opponents to have their own deeply entrenched ideas. If you want to disabuse them of these notions you have to present a complete argument against them.

Additionally it is a rude surprise to find out that you do not believe your own ideas for the reasons you think you, and can lead to a personal crisis. If you don't know something maybe you aren't the best person to be communicating it. If you decide to communicate when you haven't got a complete picture it's very important that you remain ever cognizant of the limitations of your own scope of knowledge.

Show don't tell

In the last section we discussed building a complete argument, now it's time to put your argument on display. Those who do not accept your conclusions will be more than comfortable simply writing you off as being wrong and not listening to you. It is justifiable to tell them where you are going with your argument before you start, but then you should lay down your foundation of commonly agreed upon facts and show each step of the way that you derive the conclusion that you intend to communicate. This is where it really pays off to have worked your way through your own ideas several times.

There is only so much credibility that other people are willing to give your ideas, lets call that interpersonal capital, if you tell people your conclusions you can buy their assent with interpersonal capital, or you can use a smaller amount of interpersonal capital to lay the foundations of an argument and follow those up with free logic and build a valuable argument.

Not only is it more convincing to show your work, so to speak, but also it's more useful if you want this information to carry on beyond your immediate audience. When you show your work you've instantly given everyone listening a shortcut when they go to do step one themselves.

A wonderful example of the importance of this is explaining the invisible hand. The concept is elegant and beautiful and key to a conservative understanding of the advantages of capitalism, but telling people that the invisible hand of the market serves to balance supply and demand does nothing to increase peoples understanding of it.

Be deliberate in your delivery

No one likes a ninny. If you want people to accept and believe you you have to show that you yourself accept and believe you. To this end you should do your best to avoid weasel words, though occasionally you have to include qualifiers to avoid being wrong. It might be tempting to construct an argument completely out of quotations but you cannot build an idea inside of someone else's head with out standing behind it.

Choose the medium which best communicates your message

If you are trying to tell a narrative a movie is an excellent way to do it, but if you are trying to prove a point of contention a movie is incapable of effectively tying into references in the way an academic style paper can. Pictures and figures can greatly increase our ability to communicate information and can add much needed visual interest to an otherwise bland presentation or document but it is easy to misuse them and great care should be used to both select the pictures that most effectively communicate what you intend as well as tying them into the body of the presentation or text.

Pictures should never be added for pictures sake, people resent being mislead with irrelevant information.

Tailor your argument for your audience

If you are arguing a historical or legal point your argument should be built primarily of quotations and analysis of those quotations. If you are trying to argue a mathematical point a formal proof is what is called for. If you are making a point in economics you should rely heavily on logic and mathematics and data. If you are arguing a scientific concept you should be relying on scientific literature. If you are communicating your personal state then emotions should form the backbone of your argument.

It is important to construct your arguments in a format that is appropriate to the forum. Just like you need a complete argument you cannot expect to be able to communicate that complete argument in the wrong format. You wouldn't expect something said in the wrong language to take so you shouldn't expect the wrong format to win you any fans.

An additional consideration is that you have to take into account what those who are listening to you are likely to accept already. If you are arguing a point about economics to economists you can skip the explanation of supply and demand curves but if you are trying to communicate the same thing to a group of sociologists this must be included. Keep in mind that these are additional things you have to show people, you cannot just tell some extra things at them.

Listen to feedback

One of the most infuriating traits about liberals is that they are sure that they know what's best for people. At the same time people will help you to change their minds if you take the time to listen. People will point out what they disagree with about your argument and this gives you a second chance to straighten them out on the point. not only do you get a second shot at changing their mind but you also get a chance to refine your own argument. You can strip away the weaker points and get to the heart of the matter, not wasting time on unconvincing arguments.