Dogs Do speak, But Only to Those Who Know How to Listen

The title quotation is attributed to Turkish Novelist and Nobel Prize winner, Orhan Pamuk. The good news about his insight is that most everyone knows how to listen to a dog. When you meet one, since it cannot speak, you instinctively read it for signs of mood and danger. Is it’s tail wagging? Is it growling? Is it eyeing you suspiciously, or does it look like it wants to lick you and play with you?

As amazing as “man’s best friend is,” it can’t compare to human body language for all its richness and nuance. And as important a skill as it is to read dog body language, consider how much more important it is to be able to master reading human body language.

As a final note, remember that you are involuntarily delivering body language too. Are you delivering the message you mean to? Do people see your wagging tail or your barred fangs?

Be willing to be BAD… – the right Disposition…


We are in the throes of it now… one tournament after the next. So how’s your disposition during competition?

Here’s what Seth Godin says is necessary when in pursuit of a new venture, goal or project…

“Be willing to be bad at it before you are good at it.”

Yes, this is the best mindset when pursuing things of value.

During this part of the competitive season you are studying, preparing, writing, re-writing, and practicing. You have begun to collect ballots and learn where you rank compared to other competitors. It is critical to remind yourself of the VALUE of improving your communication skills.



Value the ACTIVITY


Once you remember how important these things are then you will appreciate the up’s and down’s of your journey. You will be free to be ‘bad’ before being ‘good.’ And then, because you know how valuable your pursuit is, you will get BETTER.

Have a talk with yourself, and keep going! Remember the VALUE of good speaking skills.

During competition your disposition will make all the difference. Let it be a good one.

You have nothing to prove…


You have nothing to prove, everything to share.

Take a deep breath. Release. Relax. Repeat…

You have nothing to prove, everything to share.

Operative word #1 – “prove”

Merriam Webster: “to show that (someone or something) has a particular quality, ability, etc.

Speakers who try to ‘prove’ something are already at a disadvantage because they perceive a battle in which they must take a defensive position. This includes the desire to defend a title or duplicate a particular level of performance. As soon as speakers believe that they must uphold a certain image or fulfill certain expectations, they are approaching the communication process in the wrong way. They have become central, and the proper focus on connection with the audience by sharing a meaningful message is compromised.

Operative word #2 – “share”

Merriam Webster:  “to let someone else have or use a part of (something that belongs to you)

The more that communicators can think of themselves as “sharers,” the better. Sharing springs from caring about both the audience and the message. Speakers who share, offer their stories, their encouragement, their information — trusting that valuable lessons will be received by those who listen. The speakers see themselves merely as channels to carry their messages.

Dale Carnegie taught a similar lesson when he would metaphorically refer to the difference between a window and an exhibit as he trained new speakers. He insisted that the best speakers should think of themselves as windows that let the light of their messages shine through as they speak. Otherwise, a speaker who feels like he is ‘on exhibit” will be tempted to prove something to himself or to his audience members. Beware.

Yes, I understand that debaters think in terms of proof, evidence, and substantiation. Good for them. SHARE that information. Speakers are more resilient and robust mentally when they enter the communication process from a strong position of sharing. Share what you have prepared, what you have predicted, and what you have practiced and polished. You will prove your points best by sharing what you know.

For those of you who are already struggling with inner doubt and frustration, pause. Before you become rattled and think that you must prove something – get out of your own way.

Relax and repeat…

You have nothing to prove, everything to share.

CARE, then Share


Here is a dynamic truth from Michael Port, a bestselling author, former actor, and speech trainer…

“In a speech, one of the most important things that an audience needs to know is that you know the way the world looks for them,” says Michael. “And you know how it could look — and it could look a lot better. So we are trying to take them on a journey to what is better. When you meet somebody, let’s say you’re networking together, it really makes a difference if they believe you understand the way the world looks to them. And in the development of that relationship, if you are helping them see the way the world could look, well then that relationship can develop very powerfully and positively over time.”

Can you believe this? A good speech is not a “data dump.” It does not just transfer information. Effective speakers consider how they want their audience to FEEL when they are done speaking. You cannot be satisfied with merely approaching your audiences in terms of what they need to KNOW.

Here the age-old proverb, typically attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, applies…,

The audience never cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

This is how Michael Port’s insight applies. Can the audience truly believe that you know how their world looks? Do they subconsciously trust that you genuinely care? If not, modify your message.

To build trust we must adjust. We cannot afford to tell audiences all that we think they need to know. They must feel that we understand their world, and that our message is applicable to it. Then we can gently move them from seeing their world as it is to what it could be.

So ask yourself two questions as you prepare your platform, as you refine your message, as you craft your delivery…

What does my audience currently feel about this topic?

What will they feel after hearing my message?

For example, rather than decry that “Problem X resulted in more than 3 million deaths over the past 20 years,” put a “face” on your facts. Tell us about “Ziggy” and how his/her family was specifically impacted by Problem X. Present your information in a way that your audience FEELS the injustice that hurt Ziggy and trusts that you care too. Numbers, statistics and figures never speak for themselves. Make sure that all data is directly applicable to your audience and pertinent to similar conditions in their lives.

The message we share must show that we care. This dynamic is essential – a non-negotiable in effective communication.

The “Mouth” is Mightier than the Pen – research out of University of Chicago is profound!

This June 27, 2015 article from The New York Times reports a fascinating study conducted by Dr. Nicholas Epley, a behavioral scientist from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. He writes, “The closest you ever get to another person’s mind is through their mouth.”  This brief article is worth a thorough read in order to understand the importance of spoken language (vs. text-based communication) in business and in life. Dr. Epley’s findings show that we sound smarter than our thoughts look.