Tag Archive: Communication


Color Commentary

 You need to understand basic color theory.  Period.  It is just that simple. 

One exception: if you are legally color blind, maintain a closet full of Garanimals, have no plans to paint any part of your house, have turned over all decorating responsibilities to a significant other and will never be required to create a chart, graph, illustration, presentation, document, video, web page or any other visual form involving color…then you get a pass.

But everyone else needs to understand basic color theory.

Why? For the same reason you need to be able to speak, read and write. Color communicates. It has meaning. It evokes emotion. It triggers reaction. It conveys feeling. It adds depth. And if you don’t understand how colors complement, contrast and interact, you are functioning with a very limited visual vocabulary.

Don’t undermine your ability to communicate with the world.  Learn about color theory.

Regret & Retrospect

In February, as part of a “Face the Nation” interview, Bob Schieffer asked former Secretary of State General Colin Powell if he had “any regrets” endorsing Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign.

I didn’t like the question. Not because of my political affiliation, nor due to some disdain for the interviewer. I simply objected to utilization of the word regret.

Regret acknowledges a poor decision enabled by emotion:

  • I reget snacking on chocolate cheesecake last night at 3AM.
  • I reget drinking so much at the New Year’s Eve party.
  • I reget sending an acrimonious email to my coworker.

Expressing regret is an admission that you were wrong and you knew it at the time, however you consciously decided to ignore your own wisdom or dismiss readily available information in favor of some other desire. The immediate gratification is eventually replaced by sadness, disappointment, repentance or despair. In an attempt to console yourself, you express regret—a confession that you were weak, acted selfishly and/or were incapable of keeping your emotions in check.

That’s regret. And I doubt General Powell was anxious to express that on national television.

In contrast, retrospect acknowledges a poor decision enabled by uncertainty:

  • I don’t regret not taking typing in high school, but in retrospect it would have served me well.
  • I don’t regret locking in my mortgage rate, but in retrospect I would have benefited from waiting two more weeks.
  • I don’t regret selling my Apple stock, but in retrospect I could have held it much longer.

Retrospect is an admission that you may have been wrong, but it was due to insufficient information or unforeseen subsequent events. Elapsed time provides more intelligence and greater clarity, which helps to explain why the decision was ultimately proven incorrect. There are no ensuing emotions of guilt, anguish or contrition to be resolved and any pain or disappointment is comforted by the fact no one can predict the future (e.g., “Hindsight is 20/20…” or “If I knew then what I know now…”).

Conventional wisdom says regrets are bad. We shouldn’t have any. Therefore, we hesitate to acknowledge them and quickly eschew the notion of having any when asked by someone else. But retrospect is usually considered a good thing. It presents an opportunity to learn from our past and make better decisions in the future. And if asked for our thoughts in retrospect, we often elaborate in great detail.

And therefore Powell’s response should come as no surprise:

“None whatsoever…I think he was the right choice when the nation voted for him…he has done some things that help the country a great deal…But I am afraid he put too much on the plate for the American people to absorb at this time.”

In other words: no regrets, but in retrospect…

Communication

Someone recently asked what undergraduate studies in Communication taught me. After a brief pause and moment of reflection (since 15 years have passed), I offered up the following four pearls of wisdom…

#1 – You are always communicating. From birth until death, you are constantly communicating with the world. And the world is interpreting and processing more information than you are intentionally transmitting:

• Shouting communicates, as does silence.
• Hand gestures communicate, as does sitting still.
• Eye contact communicates, as does looking away.

    In short, you cannot not communicate because no communication is a form of communication (you might need to read that again, but you’ll get the point).

    For example, a friend recently commented he “no longer communicates” with one of his siblings. But this is in fact a very strong form of ongoing communication. What message is sent when his birthday passes without receiving a phone call? Or when Christmas comes and goes without a card? Or when he becomes an uncle and hears about it second-hand? You may not be actively transmitting, but radio silence sends a message as well.

    #2 – Delivery matters. How you package and deliver the content of your message affects the message itself. Case in point, if the content is “I love you”, does the message remain the same when it is delivered…

    …in a face-to-face conversation?
    …over the phone?
    …in a text message?
    …on a billboard?

    Maybe, maybe not. But how the content is received will certainly be considered, and that enables your message to be interpreted differently than how it was intended.

    #3 – Context matters. How you deliver content makes a difference, but so does when and where you deliver it. Imagine someone nudges your side and states “Look, that guy is sweating buckets!” What is the intended meaning of the message if the man brought to your attention is…

    …playing basketball while you sit in the stands?
    …speaking on stage while you sit in the audience?
    …eating a bowl of chili while you sit at an adjacent table?

    The content is essentially the same, but the context—when and where the message is received—drastically changes your interpretation.

    #4 – All messages are subject to noise. There are numerous things that can interfere with the reception of your intended message. Sometimes you know about it and try to compensate (shouting in a packed stadium or signaling with hand gestures on the dance floor), and other times you are oblivious to it (wishing “Merry Christmas” to someone who, unbeknownst to you, is Jewish). Bottom line, effective communication often depends on your ability to account for noise between you and your audience.

    Admittedly, an undergraduate degree in Communications is not required to grasp these concepts. Through everyday experience we come to understand these four aspects of communication and we do our best to apply this knowledge in our daily communications with others.  We focus on the content of our message and whenever possible give consideration to how, when and where it is received.

    But now in the information age, we push content out to our audience with little concern for anything else, largely because it is often beyond our control. Case in point, I control the words of this blog post but have willingly given up power over how you receive it (RSS feed, email, internet browser, iPhone, iPad, etc.), when you receive it (morning, night, today, three weeks from now, etc.) and where you receive it (work, home, airport, restaurant, waiting room, etc.). In addition, I can do nothing to account for possible noise (poor word choice, distracting environment, your emotional state, etc.) that might interfere with my intended message.

    And so when it comes to digital communication—the proposed medium for 2MinuteGenius.com— the challenge is creating content strong enough to overpower everything else that contributes to the message.  In essence, I need to make sure there is amazing stuff inside the bottle before throwing it into the vast ocean of information.

    Sounds easy enough.

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