Archive for the ‘Learning’ Category

Leadership tips

June 9th, 2011 Kevin No comments

Knowledge Advocate’s Top Ten Leadership Tips

#1: get a deck of index cards and write your favorite leadership hints on them. Review the deck weekly.

#2: adopt a leadership model and use it. Try out the model in the book, Primal Leadership. The authors present six types of leader. Well-balanced leaders rotate the type of leadership they use to fit the occasion.

#3: ask for help. Learn what help you seek by making your vision and needs clear first to yourself and then to those who are willing to follow you. They will help you far more when you clarify your needs and vision.

#4: know that all “reasoning” is argument. That means you, like most everyone else, will suffer from faulty reasoning from time to time. The remedy? Seek the wisdom of your crowd daily. We are smarter together.

#5: meet the needs of those who follow you. First, learn what their needs are by paying close attention and asking lots of questions. Then, meet those needs. Because expressing needs is hard work, help them do it.

#6: help people create new habits. New habits are the amazing and humane solution to constant change.

#7: help folks do things “no matter what it takes” by encouraging their true emotional commitment. Lead them to strong and sound emotional resolve. Trust, rapport, and confidence are good starters.

#8: each of us has an A-player inside. Changing people is hard work so change conditions instead. Change the environment and discover that the A-players you never dreamed of having are already there for you.

#9: from business chaos comes order. Nature teaches this truth. So when things get chaotic, accept the challenge and look hard to see the order. Use your big picture gifts. Own the moment and take charge.

#10: be generous. Offer continuous and uninterrupted energy of gratitude, appreciation, and thanks. Share these things directly and emotionally with those people who are kind enough to follow your lead.

Leadership is serious business. This is a solid list to reflect upon as you continue to honor your followers with your sincere effort, hard work, and clear vision. Help them help you.

Good luck!

Kevin Leahy, founder

Knowledge Advocate, LLC

Categories: Consulting, Learning, People Tags:

Entertainment + education: are both really possible at the same time?

February 24th, 2011 Kevin No comments


Our bodies treat entertainment differently than education and mingling both together at once might just reduce our chances of learning by encouraging our unconscious to decide the pressure of learning is off.


Entertaining and educating are not a great pair. When both are present we tend to treat them both far more as entertainment and far less as education. Then, the opportunity to learn goes way down.

Say some more?

I sense that different brain waves, mental states, focus, value and resolve occur during educational moments compared with entertaining moments. And, we like to be entertained way more than educated.


So if we are involved in a training designed to be educational and entertaining, it may be that our bodies by default decide to chill out, be entertained, and stop paying close attention or retaining much at all.

So what?

Well: a popular approach to corporate training relies on entertainment during the educational process. With all that entertainment, what if we decide it’s all entertainment with little or no education value at all?

What’s your point?

My point is that we may need a challenge, a little anxiety, for learning to stick and that if we intermingle entertainment, we might be reducing the challenge, stress, and corresponding stickiness of the learning.


Separate the two out more. Acknowledge that training and learning require a form of attention, focus, and resolve that gets dampened down by entertainment. Focus on learning tactics more than entertaining moments. Make the rewards for learning less immediate (entertaining) with bigger, longer lasting pay offs (increased retention, efficiency, and mastery). Accept that intense moments of learning surely deserve a break and that those breaks in between the learning ought to be entertaining. They simply should not have entertainment stuck in the middle because that throws our unconscious brain off. Acknowledge that adult learning deserves sincere dedication to the task at hand without too much laughter, theatrics, or need for a soothing, “challenge free” calm. While entertainment affords solace for our weary corporate bones, this post simply encourages that the place for entertainment might not be smack dab in the middle of an important learning moment.

Are you taking away our right to be entertained during corporate training sessions?

No, I hope. I’m just thinking about how we might reframe the issue of entertainment in education. If we want to increase learning, is our simultaneous need to be entertained getting in the way?


The idea that entertainment and education don’t mingle well is a mere hunch. Who knows, perhaps entertainment is essential to learning? Let’s explore it some. Stay tuned.

Categories: Brain power, Learning Tags:

The Back 98™: Learning and the Brain

February 15th, 2011 Kevin No comments

Learning and the Brain

This post is part of The Back 98™ series where I share information about sections of our brains we don’t often manage directly. The big idea: you may wish to control more of The Back 98 than you currently do.

What are three things I need to focus on about learning and the Back 98 part of my brain?

1) Use all your senses: brains dedicate tons of cells to senses and we learn best when we maximize them

The point: as you learn, consciously use as many senses as you can for best learning results

Example: talk with others about your learning, write about it, read what you learn out loud if you can

2) Get emotional: the emotion-related parts of the brain are highly influential and really make things stick

The point: back your learning with conscious emotion when you can to guarantee you learn things well

Example: connect a past passion with your new learning, or revel emotionally when you achieve an insight

3) Space learning out in small chunks: memory overloads fast, so spread out learning by time and in parts

The point: know when you hit overload, before then, break up your learning into smaller parts

Example: stop reading this when you’ve had enough; return later and reflect on what you read while away

Below I underline several learning tactics. It’s a starter list and the tactics appear at the end of this post.

What areas of The Back 98 do you specifically discuss?

Your sensory sections come up, as do the parts of your brain that integrate your senses. The emotional brain (which includes parts dedicated to memory) plays a huge role in learning. I also touch on short term memory, which is more of a front of the brain thing (by referencing that you get overloaded with new learning). Long term memory is implied and not directly addressed (we remember what we rehearse and several tactics address rehearsal of new learning). Generally, I speak to the formation of neuronal pathways all over the brain that fire together. I also spend some time discussing imagination. The “imagination” system of your brain involves the visual cortex as well as a bunch of other parts.

That’s a lot of sections of The Back 98!

Yes, learning ultimately is a “whole brain” event. Still, it can be helpful to understand the various parts involved in how we learn. For the record, I try not to get too technical in the early posts in the series. You can expect that I will use specific terms, like hippocampus, as we move further along in the series.

That’s a lot of Back 98 territory, don’t you think?

Yes; this post scampers about the brain. The entire Back 98 is fair real estate when it comes to learning. The more you use of The Back 98, the better your learning will stick and mean something for you.

Why so much focus on learning, I’ve been out of school for a while?

Business continues to move from production of things to production of thoughts. People who learn faster and apply their learning effectively create competitive advantages and prosper in these changing times.

Any other reasons?

Constant learning improves the chance the new brain cells we create daily will stay alive (they die with no purpose). It also ensures growth of connection between brain cells. Learning brains are healthy brains.

Any other benefits of constant learning?

Brains crave novelty. Rewards happen (releasing chemicals like dopamine) when we gain insights. Learning helps predict things and helps us navigate change. Surprise yourself: it’s good for your brain.

Are you saying if I control the nonconscious sections of my brain I’ll learn better?

Yes. I’ll share with you helpful tactics that will improve how you learn and also offer tidbits about how your brain prefers to learn. Take your time to work on the points I share at your leisure, when it suits you.

You don’t know my brain! How can you tell me what it’ll prefer?

In this series I offer what science is uncovering about the brain generally. Researchers are susceptible to mupping (”making stuff up,” just like we all do). Much they offer will prove right, some will get revised.

“Researchers?” What researchers?

Here are a few of my favorites, use their name and “brain” in your Internet search to find out more about them: James Zull; Eric Jensen; Rita Carter; Louann Brizendine; Stephen Pinker; Daniel Goleman; Jonah Lehrer; David Rock; Antonio Damasio; Sharon Begley; Michael Gazzaniga; Joseph LeDoux; John Medina; V.S. Ramachandran; Daniel Schacter. I credit each of these folks and many more including good friends with the things I pass along to you in this blog. A thank you to each and every one who has helped me.

Long list!

Yes. That’s why this blog series is happening. I hope it provides you with some short cuts into this amazing area of ongoing, exciting research. How cool to learn what, quite literally, makes us tick.

Can you share some tactics for improving how I learn already, thanks!

Okay, and first: who learns the most in a class room? Usually, it’s the teacher! Teachers move, talk, hear, touch, and gesture more than most students, which helps. We learn best when we use all of our senses.

So what’s the tactic?

Tactic one: use as many senses as you can when you learn to help make your learning stick better. Our brains have different sections for hearing, seeing, etc.; neurons help us learn better that fire together.

What do you mean by “fire together?”

Fire together refers to the way brain cells, called neurons, communicate. When they fire together they share energy and chemicals all at once. We learn better when more cells link together at the same time.

Encouraging neurons to fire together helps us learn better?

Yes: because when neurons fire together as we learn it makes it more likely we will be able to call back up the learning later. The brain is able to recall more information if we involve more senses as we learn.

Come again? Not sure I get that… do you have an analogy for this point?

When you leave several post-its around to remind yourself of something (the mirror, fridge, on the front door), chances that you will remember the thing go way up. For the brain more connections are better.

You mentioned gesturing; does gesturing help me learn more too?



Scientists aren’t sure. Their studies just show that people who gesture as they learn retain more and do better on tests. Maybe it’s because gesturing and language are closely linked: language is key to learning.

Your first tactics are about sensory experiences and movement, is that right?

Yes. The first tactic speaks to using more senses when you learn. The second deals with movement that accompanies speech usually. Tactic two: gesture as you learn to help you learn better.

I have heard that blind people gesture to other blind people when they talk, is that true?

Yes. We all need to gesture as we speak. Try not gesturing and see what happens. It’s painful when a speaker forgets to gesture at a podium, isn’t it? Gesturing naturally accompanies language and learning.

Do you have additional tactics related to using our senses more?

You betcha. Tactics three through six: read out loud (that’s what Lincoln used to do), write notes in books that you read, talk in study groups, and imagine presenting your learning to an audience.

Are you saying we should use our imagination as we learn?

Yes. The brain treats imagined events and actual events about the same. Imagining something that involves new learning is just like using it. The more we “use” a new learning the better we learn it.

Practice makes perfect?

With learning: absolutely.

What other tactics relate to learning and The Back 98?

Tactic seven: get emotional when you learn. Large sections of the brain are dedicated to produce and assess emotions. Emotional backing is key. Get emotional to learn way more than you think you can.

If I don’t like something (tax filings/Microsoft upgrades), how can I back it emotionally?

Simple: relax. Let the final benefits drive your passion for it. Focus on solutions and not problems. Do whatever it takes to emote your way through the learning. Discipline is remembering what you want.

Are you saying the ability to relax is another learning tactic?

Yes. Tactic eight: relax, take deep breaths from your belly, and get as much oxygen to your brain as possible. Ever do poorly on a test where you were out of breath and got anxious? Relax to learn more.

You haven’t mentioned repetition yet: is repetition important for learning?

Repetition is the mother of learning. I did mention practice. In the absence of emotions, repetition is critical: it helps neuronal pathways get stronger. Tactic nine: repeat things to improve your brain’s wiring.

If there is a mother of learning, is there a father?

Beats me. There is this: if you connect a new learning to things you already know the chances of it sticking around go way up. Tactic ten: connect a new learning to what you already know.

Got any more tactics?

Yes and we just hit ten tactics. This is a great time and place in this post for you to remove yourself from the blog for a bit. Come back later, your action will most likely help you learn  better in the end anyway.

Okay… I’m back. More tactics please.

Sure. Before I do, a fun fact: a jigsaw puzzle without the top is 10 times harder to solve than with it.

So what? Is that another tactic?

Yes. Tactic eleven: understand the overall point of the learning first, then tackle the details. We do better with our learning when we can understand the big picture of why we are learning first before the specifics.

That seems like common sense; how is it a brain thing?

Parts of the cerebral cortex (cortex means “bark”) help integrate our senses together. One part integrates the big picture and another organizes details. The brain tends to want to see the whole before the details.

How do you know that?

Several researchers speak to this and in particular, consider the work of James Zull in his excellent book, The Art of Changing the Brain, pages 154-162. He explains “the back integrative cortex” and what it does.

What does the back integrative cortex do?

According to Zull, the back integrative cortex brings present senses together with prior senses to help make meaning of what’s happening. It’s like the way we move jigsaw pieces around to see if they fit.

So getting a handle on the big picture first makes the most sense?

For most of us, yes. Meaning is found in patterns that we can predict and not necessarily details we list. Memory without meaning is a hollow promise. Our ability to make meaning first is critical for learning.

Does my ability to predict things help me learn?

How predictive of you! Learning is mostly a function of prediction, in fact. We are pattern making machines and love to figure out patterns that predict the future. The Back 98 rewards smart predictions.

What kind of rewards?

The chemical kind, like the release of dopamine or endorphin. Also social rewards, which is a topic for another post in this blog series: the brain wires toward social interaction, social needs, and social rewards.

What kind of predictions are you talking about: short term; mid-term; or long term?

Short term. Change is hard for us because the longer the term, the harder it is to predict outcomes. This is one reason lifetime learning is key. Constant learning helps us maintain accurate short term predictions.

You mean we humans are not so good at mid term and long term predictions?

Exactly (as a general rule; there are exceptions).

Is this why some “experts” get it wrong when they predict market failure, war, etc.?

Yes. The farther out we ask experts to predict things the more predictions will amount to near guesswork.

Is there a learning tactic related to predicting?

Yes. Tactic twelve: your learning improves when you see how the learning predicts your successful future. We remember a learning that helps predict things accurately (fear throws this off, more in a later post).

That sounds a whole lot like WIIFM (”what’s in it for me”); do you agree?

Yes. WIIFM is a powerful motivator for learning; it is directly tied to the need to provide emotional backing behind what we learn. We learn best when we create patterns that help us predict the future.

What else about learning must I know?

Learn to reflect (similar to rehearsal). Reflection helps cement our learning. When it comes to learning this is an essential part. Reflection helps the brain process our learning and gives it perspective too.

So what’s the tactic?

Tactic thirteen: reflect on what you learn to improve your ability to retain and use the new learning. Do so by sharing your learning, reviewing the learning as it happens, and imagining how the learning helps you.

Isn’t reflection the same thing as repetition?

It’s different. Repetition is wrote and relies on fewer brain sections. Reflection can be a whole brain process, a more comprehensive approach. It helps you take advantage of the strengths of your brain.

Say some more?

Some parts of The Back 98 work better for you than others (you may be more visual, more tuned to your hearing, etc.). Those parts will fire up more during reflection. Reflection works to your brain’s strengths.

What state of mind should I have as I reflect?

Great question! Try wonder and trust. Wonder, as in “the mind of a child,” is a great motivator. Wonder encourages puzzlement, and we humans love to figure out puzzles. This is true even without the box top!

And trust… can trust be a state of mind?

Of course it can. When a great old friend calls, what happens? Instantly, we recall multiple things about him or her and get right back up to speed. Tactic fourteen: your brain learns better on trust and wonder.

Do states of mind affect learning?


Are you saying I should walk around in a state of wonder and trust all the time?

Not a bad idea at all. That is the spirit of tactic fourteen.

What haven’t you covered?

We’ve covered a lot. Fourteen tactics in all with lots of insights about brain preferences. That’s enough for now. There will be additional references to learning later in the series. Learning is key to living well.

Conclusion: Fourteen Tactics for Learning and the Brain

As promised, here are all the tactics listed. I provide an example after each one as well:

Tactic one: use as many senses as you can when you learn to help make your learning stick better.

Example: teach what you learn to whoever will listen to maximize your sensory experience.

Tactic two: gesture as you learn to help you learn better.

Example: move hands, lips and eyebrows when you read, even if it looks like you are talking to yourself!

Tactics three: read out loud.

Example: speak the notes you take during a learning out loud during your review of them later.

Tactic four: write notes in books that you read.

Example: pretend you are in a conversation with the author and write out questions you might ask her.

Tactic five: talk in study groups.

Example: talk about the learning with others who are also learning the same things as much as you can.

Tactic six: imagine presenting your learning to an audience.

Example: turn a chair backwards and pretend it is your podium; have at it because practice makes perfect!

Tactic seven: get emotional when you learn.

Example: psych yourself up before a learning and jump up and down like a football player before a game.

Tactic eight: relax, take deep breaths from your belly, and get as much oxygen to your brain as possible.

Example: try faking a yawn; it might bring about the real thing and it will get lots of oxygen to the brain.

Tactic nine: repeat things to improve your brain’s wiring.

Example: in your mind, review the learning and if you can, rewrite notes later in the day.

Tactic ten: connect a new learning to what you already know.

Example: no matter how weak the link force yourself to compare a new learning to something you know.

Tactic eleven: understand the overall point of the learning first, then tackle the details.

Example: spend more time figuring out the reasons you are learning something first before diving in to it.

Tactic twelve: your learning improves when you see how the learning predicts your successful future.

Example: modify your body language and predict better relations with it; pay attention to the gains made.

Tactic thirteen: reflect on what you learn to improve your ability to retain and use the new learning.

Example: make a habit to consciously reflect on what you learned by day’s end to make it stick better.

Tactic fourteen: your brain learns better on trust and wonder.

Example: believe in what you learn and consciously wonder how you will use it to your advantage.

There. That concludes the post on Learning and the Brain in The Back 98 blog series.

Stay tuned for more,

Kevin Leahy

Knowledge Advocate, LLC

Categories: Brain power, Learning Tags:

Teaching and learning

October 10th, 2010 Kevin No comments

Who learns the most in a class room?

Interesting question… depending on how many senses he or she uses, the answer will often be the teacher. Teachers stand to learn the most because learning is highly connected to the amount of senses we use during the learning process. Teachers prepare, hear, see, feel and generally, experience more things during class than any other person in the class. So, they stand a strong chance of learning the most.

Is there a correlation between what teachers teach and what students learn?

Yes. Because of our faulty memories among other things, student ability to retain what teachers teach falls to about 20% of content beyond a few weeks (often, beyond a few days). It can be considerably lower depending on the focus ability of the student. This is why “repetition is the mother of learning,” and why immediately getting to “apply what we learn” is king.

Are there ways to increase the ability of students to learn?

Some ways involve listening to 60-beat per minute Baroque music (what were composers smoking to tap into that?), meditating to calm brain waves down prior to learning, learning in bursts and chunks, encouraging particular advantageous states of mind during a learning moment, applying the learning immediately with various exercises, and in more sophisticated learning programs, teaching to each individual’s unique learning style.

Any final thoughts about learning and teaching?

It is much easier to learn new things by connecting the new learning to things we already know. In fact, if we cannot make a connection between the new learning and a prior learning, our instinct is to reject the new learning outright. This is why learning new things is often hard stuff to do.

So, what can I do about that?

Next time you have the chance to teach anyone anything, remember to help connect what the person already knows with the new things he or she is learning. That effort should result in a higher retention/learning experience for them.

Good luck, let me know how it goes.

Categories: Learning Tags:

Use the “language of choice” to talk better

August 20th, 2010 Kevin No comments

How much fun is it to hear these: “You should do this,” or, “If I were you,” or, “You know, this is what I would do.” Not fun, right? If not, why do we sometimes say them? These phrases are contrary to the “language of choice.”

What do you mean by the “language of choice?”

The “language of choice” includes phrases like: “You have the following option,” or, “Here is a choice for you to consider,” and the ever faithful, “This is one opportunity and there are many more.” It simply refers to the conscious effort to package your suggestions carefully, so that the other person understands your intentions and authentic efforts to share what you know, feel, or sense about what comes next.

The”language of choice” is critical as we offer to others what we know.

The language of choice stands for this point, which is also the point of this post:

we have a conscious ability to give people a better way to experience our suggestions.

Do you have some specifics to help make sense of that point?

Sure. Specifically, we can share what we know better by minding our energies, word choices, body language, and states of mind. Each one of these elements offers a unique ability to give choices to others that come across as well intentioned, reasonable, and therefore, acceptable. By keeping these elements in mind we do better as we offer others choices that they may or may not follow; it’s their choice!


Sure. Word choices are easiest and you read some examples of those above. The following nouns are a good starter list: options; considerations; suggestions; opportunities; choices; paths; ways. Use them like this: you have the following options; here is an opportunity you might consider; and the helpful, here are several ways of doing it and you choose what’s best for you.

What about body language cues?

I define body language to include tone and pitch and other non-verbal sounds. When offering choices it is best to do it without judgment, bias, or noticeable weighting of the options offered. The body cues that support these conditions include “openness,” of eyebrows, shoulders, palms and chest. Other cues involve a steady and soft gaze, a heart-felt tone of voice, and quiet pauses between choices. Those pauses give them a chance for chance and opportunity to blossom. And of course, when offering choices make sure to let the person have the physical space enough away from you, quite literally, give him or her the room necessary to decide things on his or her own.

States of mind and energy; what happens with them as we offer choices?

States of mind and energy are noticeably harder to coordinate as we offer choices to others. The good news, if you use the right type of body language cues your states of mind often follow! When you answer a question and do so with choices, the preferable state of mind is “ponder.” Ponder as a state of mind causes us to be considerate, understand things aren’t always as they seem, and as we ponder we know that minds are not yet made up. Alternatively we can simply offer choices with a statement. The state of mind that works best then is an open one; literally, an open state of mind. I know, this is vague. What does open mean here? As a state of mind, consider that an open mind implies that there are no barriers present, there are no pre-determinations, there are no boundaries.

What energy works best when we share different choices?

Energy is the critical element necessary to master the language of choice. To pull off honest, reasonable, and well-meaning choices shared with others, we must connect with their energy, and their sense of things. Because the choices we offer come from us and not them, efforts to manage our energy when sharing choices is hard.

Do you have some steps to follow on how to manage energy while offering choices?


First, acknowledge that the energy of the moment is key to a successful outcome. That will help you maintain conscious awareness of the energy.

Second, us energy that links your senses with the other person’s senses when you state your choices. Alternatively, if you answer with choices, use the energy of making sense. That energy is firm, grounded, it is energy that knows from where it comes.

Third, mind the flow of energies, your own and the other person’s, as they merge. Does a union of energies happen, or, is there a clash? Answering that question lets you know how well your choices are received.

Have fun exploring the language of choice. Let me know how it goes!

Categories: Learning, Thoughts Tags:

Business insight through the Forum Theatre

July 26th, 2010 Kevin No comments

A gentleman named Augusto Boal was a theater man. He used his expertise to devise a form of theater known as Forum Theatre. The gist of it is that the actors’ words and actions, although scripted initially, change due to insights and observations from the audience. Boal changed what he calls the audience from spectators to “spectactors.”

So tell us what happens?

There are many versions of how Forum Theatre gets performed. In one, a short play is acted out in its entirety. After that the actors begin again and when a spectactor feels inspired, he or she offers a new direction about where the dialogue and action can go. The actors try those new suggestions and the play continues. Sometimes the audience member can replace an actor with himself or herself. Many changes continue and often, the play is seen in a completely different light by its end. Then the group can talk about what happened, for what reasons, and with what impact on outcomes.

So what does theater have to do with business?

Many businesses have used this form of theater to gain business insight and engage in business training. Business ritual can be bound by tradition and habit. When those traditions and habits deserve to change, this form of performance art allows business colleagues to explore with each other how those changes can occur.

How can I learn more?

Feel free to search the net for “Augusto Boal” or “Forum Theatre.” If you add the word “business” in your search, you will stumble upon numerous sites dedicated to this type of interaction. While you might not have the gumption to put on a full board Forum Theatre, you may get inspired to offer your team some different skits and methods used by Boal and others to convey change and growth. Change and growth are very healthy for corporate life.


Categories: Learning, People Tags:

Please follow the “no more than 7 things at once” rule

July 21st, 2010 Kevin No comments

Say things in bits of 7 or less. Mostly, reduce it to 3.

Examples: Tell someone your phone number is 555-2961, and not 201-555-2961. Or give them your zip code as 86153, and do not add the “post office four!” In other words, do not say 9 numbers straight in one blast: 861539039. Doing that is inappropriate.

What do we make of this “7 or less” rule?

The 7 bit rule happens, it happens all over the world, you can’t beat it so might as well join it. It’s how our brains work. On average, they process about 7 bits per blast of information (in computer speak: we inherited a 7 bit processor). Mostly though, brains are 3 bit processors. That’s why three things are magic, in bullet points, religion, and friends.

When you say things do it in 7s or less; when you can, limit it to 3 things!

Categories: Brain power, Learning, Thoughts Tags:

Is anyone listening?

July 20th, 2010 Kevin No comments

Has this happened to you: you share how you experience things and nothing registers with the other person, no one seems to be home?

What’s happening?

This situation can be exasperating, true? Why doesn’t the person care to listen? Why doesn’t he or she just “get it”?

More to the point: what can you do about it?

Next time ask: “Would you like to hear how I make sense of it?”

Why this question?

Asking the other person if he or she wants to know how you make sense of things clears the air. If the other person says “No,” or looks away, or disregards the question, then you know he or she is not interested in your viewpoint. Right then you can stop trying to make sense.

Stop making sense, are you crazy?

Whoa…. I am not asking you to stop making sense completely! Rather, next time just refrain from offering your sense when the other person makes clear they don’t want to hear it. mostly, repetitive sense making in non-receptive ears goes in one and out the other. Nothing sticks and you might get a sore throat!

Then what can you do?

Well, you can stop talking altogether as you maintain a positive attitude and energy level. You can offer something like, “We can revisit this later.” Alternatively, you can persistently inquire how he or she makes sense of the subject and connect what he or she says with what you sense about things.

What should you not do when people don’t seem to be listening?

Whatever you do, do not share your sense of things once the other person makes it clear he or she doesn’t care to hear it. They might be listening for other things, and you can explore those, they just don’t care in that particular moment to hear how you make sense of things. If that is the case, then give the conversation some patience, try a different tact, and over time see what happens.

Let me know how it goes!

Categories: Learning, People, Questioning Tags:

What’s the gist of this post? Use gist more!

July 7th, 2010 Kevin No comments

What is “gist?”

Gist has a background in the French and English languages. It stands for “the essence.” In other words, the main thing you need to know.

Where did the word come from?

In olden days, “gist” meant “to lie.” Not as in, “He lies like a rug; he never tells the truth,” but more like, “The idea lies there, just as it is.” In the old French-English legal system, it meant the argument being made was sustainable at law.

Why is gist so important?

“Gist” is another way of referring to “the pattern” of things. And patterns are how we come to understand things. So getting the “gist” is great for us because it means we “get it,” we get the pattern. Once we have the pattern we can make sense of what we are hearing, seeing, and experiencing.

Why are patterns so important?

Patterns are critical because we are pattern making machines. Mostly, we get to know more things based on what we already know, and how we know it. That requires that we pattern the new stuff right on top of or around the old stuff we already patterned before. So, anything new desperately wants to “pattern” to what we already know. That way we can make sense of it. So the gist, for us, is the way to think about something that connects and patterns to other things we already know.

Now what?

Well, next time you want to understand things better, ask people what the “gist” of what they are saying is. Doing that will help them and you because the idea of gist is the idea of getting to the essence of things. It’s short hand for: can you sum up what you just said please?

So what’s the gist of this post?

The gist is: use gist more! It’s a handy little way to ask people to help you understand what they are saying and what it means for you.

Gist away!

Categories: Learning, People Tags:

Why do we put up with self-deceit?

July 1st, 2010 Kevin No comments

Why do we routinely and automatically deceive ourselves? What’s up with that?

The big question: why do we engage in self-deceit?

The answer: mostly we can’t handle the truth about who we are. At least our ancestors couldn’t do that many moons ago, when our wiring got sorted out. Now we are mostly hard-wired to self-deceive ourselves. It’s a coping mechanism. That’s why getting to “know thyself” is highly touted and hard to achieve.

But why are we so good at spotting the deception of others?

Turns out we are great at spotting the deception of others (mostly!… check in with a few ex-wives and ex-husbands to hear about some colossal misses). We can with ease spot the failings, foibles, and petty deceits of others. That’s because the lives of our ancestors depended on it.

Say some more: why exactly are we good at spotting deceit in others?

Scientists attribute the notion of trust as coming from a need for our ancestors to pick the right folks to hang around with to ensure their own survival. Put another way: the portion of the herd that follows the wrong people thins. For eons, then, trust and rapport were non-negotiable survival tools used to get along and to get ahead. Yet with sheer, blinding, and awe-inspiring force we can summons a powerful and rather intense ignorance that deceives ourselves and others.

Why is it we are so good at seeing deceit in others and not in ourselves?

Scientists now claim they figured that out too, that is, why we see deceit in others and not in ourselves. They say that to cope with the strange, odd, and unsettling realization that we are an awkward bundle of contradictions, our ancestors simply hard-wired away our ability to spot deception when we do it to ourselves! Said again: we have wiring that makes us miss the deception we bring upon ourselves.

There it is: our self-deceit is a hard-wired gift from our ancestors!

In short, we are hard-wired to deceive ourselves. Isn’t that the darnedest thing you’ve every heard?

So now what?

Well, we can use the same tools we use for discovering deception in others right back at us. Those tools include visual and auditory inspection of our verbal and non-verbal messages. We can constantly check those messages and compare what we say, how we say it, and for what reasons we say it with a newfound ability to scrutinize those messages. For example, “If I were not me, and I heard that line spoken that way, would I trust it? Would I believe it?”

Have you ever watched yourself on video?

When we see ourselves on video, it’s not the image we have of ourselves, is it? A sure fire way to spot our own deception is to pay attention to our body language. Check in on it next time you express it. Consider what state of mind you think you might be in. And reevaluate. Get to know yourself by verifying your actions and the messages you send others. Do they pass the smell test? Consider yourself a witness to them and experience your own comments and conduct to get a sense of what impact they will have on others. Pay attention to the little things, those subtle cues we all pick up on with others that tell us whether someone passes the smell test.

So can you summarize your advice for us?

Sure. Because we are wired to self-deceive, next time you offer up opinions and facts that might contradict each other, might deceive someone, then with an outsider’s eye smell, see, and hear yourself in action. Your efforts will improve over time and you will get good at cutting away the self-deception. Give it a try!

Good luck, let me know how it goes!

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