Melania Trump’s Communication Embarrassment

imgresI am not a fan of Donald Trump and know nothing about his wife, Melania, except that she gave an impressive speech at the Republican National Convention. The next morning, I was saddened to learn she had become embroiled in a plagiarism controversy for allegedly lifting some lines from Michelle Obama’s speech to the Democratic convention eight years earlier.

But that’s the way it is with communication. It can be a treacherous discipline, especially when you’re in the high stakes throes of a presidential campaign. I was, thereby, particularly taken with the explanation that was provided by Meredith McIver, a Trump staff writer, for the lines in Melania’s speech. (Ms. McIver, incidentally, was once a ballet dancer under George Balanchine.)

Indeed the lines were from Michelle Obama’s convention speech in 2008. But they weren’t lifted from it in a predatory manner. Quite the contrary. When Melania Trump was working with Ms. McIver on her own speech, she read some of the lines she admired in Ms. Obama’s speech over the phone to Ms. McIver as examples of the sentiments she wanted to convey in her own message

“I wrote them down,” Ms. McIver explained when the plagiarism furor erupted, “and later included some of the phrasing in the draft that ultimately became the final speech. I did not check Mrs. Obama’s speeches. This was my mistake…”

Truly, it was, and an oversight that’s now been compounded in the current presidential season.   Ms. McIver,  who has co-authored several books with Donald Trump, offered to resign but Trump rejected that option, telling Ms. McIver  that “people make innocent mistakes and that we learn and grow from these experiences.”

Wow! A primetime political embarrassment provided evidence that Donald Trump can be gracious and fair, and isn’t entirely the boor he so often appears to be.  We can be thankful for such a revelation – on with the campaign in a somewhat cheerier context!

(Photo PBS.org)

Communication Shelf©

Group Communication: Continually Challengingtelephone-450831_640-300x300.jpg-300x300Effective communication in a group setting requires other-directed thinking by both the group leader and its members. What’s that mean? Well, leaders being aware of how their words and actions are likely being received, and by a group’s members providing continuing feedback. Neither are particularly easy disciplines to apply and retain. Attentiveness varies depending on situations and stresses.

A leader may go into a situation thinking, “I want to create a community here,” and then be diverted from that worthy aim by a puzzling response. What’s needed is continuing awareness by both the leader and the group of how well they’re functioning and to change course as advisable. Pick up the phone, or stop one another in the hallway. Good communication doesn’t simply happen. Value listening and respond accordingly. 


A Manager’s Needs

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Good organizational communication, says Andre Lavoie on Entrepreneur, requires effective executive leadership, and that’s not always easy to foster or find.  “…One of the biggest issues in workplaces today continues to be engagement. A July 2016 Gallup survey found that nearly 32 percent of the 1,500 employees surveyed said they felt engaged in their work, a mere 4 percent increase since a previous survey in December 2013.”

What to do? “Clearly, then, companies should focus on how they select their managers, because they apparently tend to choose the wrong person 80 percent of the time, according to Gallup. But, what makes a good manager? Effective managers focus on their employees’ strengths, and when they do that, engagement shoots up to 67 percent.

It all has to do, Lavoie adds, with finding the best sources of talent, aligning candidates with goals and testing for a candidate’s skills.


Possibilities Expressed In a Chart(s)

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Eric Douglas on Business 2 Community starts getting specific on communication styles that are expressed in both positive and negative ways. We already realize that one mode definitely doesn’t fit all, right?

Each of the four styles listed – Director, Expresser, Thinker and Harmonizer – has both positive and negative attributes/possibilities.   Douglas presents them in conjunction with a

Circle of Assumptions that, again, illustrates the continuing challenge of organizational communication. It needs to be pursued carefully, diligently and in a tolerant, understanding manner.

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Finally (For Now), Be ‘Brief’

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There’s a slender book by Joseph McCormack entitled, simply, Brief, as in “be brief”.  That’s usually a desirable aim in a world increasingly flooded by information. But along with input should come understanding, and promoting the latter – our ultimate aim – may well take longer in some instances or settings than others. By no means does community occur automatically, even if your determined to promote it. Determination isn’t always coupled with patience, and  good communication requires both.

But definitely, check out McCormack’s book.  You can get two free chapters by providing your name and email address (if you care to) here. We’re flooded with information these days, and McCormack evidently is motivated to help with that. His subtitle is “Make a bigger impact by saying less.”


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Connecting Across the Generationstrainer-preparing-lesson-1492421

Michigan State University has been posting a series on “Communication across generations,” and it’s well worth heeding, for all four generations involved – Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millenials. (Their birth periods extend from 1900 through 1994.)

In communication terms, we get shaped heavily by seismic events like depression, war and protests. But, individually, we can – and should seek to  – rise above such tribulations, so as to connect heartily and constructively with as many people as possible. That can be done by being ever mindful of the importance of listening and of showing empathy.


Gearing Up for Davos Communication, 2017

Davos SnowThe WCF Committee is preparing for the eighth edition next year of  the annual World Communications Forum at the conference center in Davos, Switzerland. “For seven years,” says Yanina Dubeykovskaya, member of the Committee in her capacity as WCFDavos Founder & Content Director as well as President of the WCFA association , ”we have been able to involve representatives of about 60 countries and transform the event into the most influential and most appreciated diversity-of-expertise platform in the world.“

The world surely needs a crystalline approach to communication and mutual understanding, whether it be snow-capped or not. The WCF program board is preparing the agenda, we trust with clarity about advancing interpersonal communication, rather than furthering bureaucracy. Godspeed!


 In Ocala, the Star Banner Seeks Its Readers Adviceimgres

The Ocala Star-Banner in Ocala, Florida, has had a Reader Advisory Board since April, 2015. Its  “13 avid readers of the paper” advise the Star Banner’s city desk. Geez, where would we be with newspapers today if more of them had decided to have such direct feedback from readers? Perhaps with more surviving papers, we’d like to think.

Communication, indeed, needs to be a community concern, by whatever means occurs to those members who value effective, constructive relationships. “Getting the word out” is the primary function of newspapers and their community backers. That’s primary, not legacymind you.


Be Open – Communicate

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Across the country, David W. Hegg in Santa Clara, California, reflects on how “Communication breeds trust. Lack of communication tends to breed suspicion.” And that can happen at a very personal level. “When couples communicate frequently, trust abounds. But silence over time contributes to growing suspicion.”

Yes, be out there and open. The links between people, whether at a community level or personally, are expressed verbally, in terms of presence or, at a community level, print or electronics. Don’t leave a void where words can contribute understanding.


Nuclear Plant Notifications Matter

Browns Ferry

To the public, the best way to become comfortable with a neighboring nuclear power plant is to be notified when anything unusual happens, however inconsequential it might be. That’s the purpose of the “Unusual Event” notification, the lowest “emergency” level at nuclear plants.

That’s why learning of a nuclear plant  the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Browns Ferry – that pooh-poohed a high radiation event that was resolved quickly, without an unusual event being declared, was annoying. At Three Mile Island after the 1979 accident there, we declared an unusual event even when workers were climbing on the cooling towers in routine maintenance checks, for they’d be visible to the public. We later created a new category – an Event of Potential Interest (EPPI) – for “events” like these. And the neighbors appreciated it.


Good Luck, Joe Biden

static2.politico-1We wish all possible progress to Vice President Joe Biden as he seeks not only to promote, but accomplish, greater sharing of cancer research data among scientists for the benefit of cancer patients. Accomplishing that life-affirming aim may not be easy.

Biden’s son, Beau, died of brain cancer last May. We don’t precisely know the pertinence of that to the vice-president’s follow-up resolve, but it can’t have been an entirely uplifting experience. For Biden is now calling for a cancer “moon shot” to bring together streams of data for enhanced progress against the disease.

The vice president noted, Politico reports that “vast troves of research were ‘trapped in silos, preventing faster progress and greater reach to patients.'”

How often similar refrains are heard! On a less lofty, but still critical, level, here’s the Standard-Times in San Angelo, Texas, reporting on its City Council’s frustration in trying to get direct answers on how city departments are handling new communication technology.

In one jarring discovery, the council learned that a technology upgrade at the Public Safety Communications division didn’t work with the Fire Department’s older system. The two branches of city government simply didn’t coordinate their actions. And so insensitive communication goes – it has long been the bane of bureaucracy, virtually its definition.

“(Assistant Fire Chief Jeff) Fant likened the Fire Department’s Zetron (system) to a bicycle tire that has been patched too many times and continues leaking. When it fails, there will be no more patches available because the parts for it are hard to find.”

And this in a crucial area of public service! Why are we so often clumsy with communication, hampered in getting into confident accord, even when lives may be in the balance?

“We didn’t replace it because it has been working fine,” said Fire Chief Brian Dunn. “It just won’t work with the Police Department’s new CAD system.”

Turf and presumptions, presumptions of correctness, instances of good intentions not thought through – these are examples of our core doggedness often to plow ahead without gleaning how our words, policies and actions are affecting others.

Communication can have great reach for the common good – that’s what Joe Biden is trying to accomplish, and what San Angelo’s procurement officials should have been aiming for in the actions unfolding there. Effective, other-focused communication – or its lack – can make or break any of us who may not be mindful of what’s involved as we plunge ahead.

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Considered Communication Works Best

images-1Be aware of what you’re trying to say, whether you’re succeeding in saying it and are being heard clearly. Considered communication works best, it’s the key to being heeded. Ken Potts on The Daily Herald in suburban Chicago makes that point well, as though he’s had lots of practice in successful, or not, communication.

“We’ve all had the experience of realizing that we’ve lost the interest, attention and even patience of the person we’re talking to (if we haven’t had that experience, then we’re the ones who aren’t paying attention,)” Potts writes from an evident fund of well-considered experience.

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Quit ‘Chewing On It,’ Please
In our far distant past, reports Inquisitor, humans had to chew their food for endlessly to digest it. That didn’t leave much time for talking, so we didn’t learn to communicate very well until we learned to cook over a fire and to mash and slice our meals first. That left time for talking, so we became conversationalists. “Chimpanzees still spend upwards of five-to-eleven hours per day simply chewing their food.

“The casual efficacy of the logic stating that less time spent chewing equates to more time spent developing higher-reasoning capabilities – such as roasting meat, which ultimately led to speech – is an exciting find for the scientific community.” Not to mention communication bloggers.

(Photo by Herbert/Getty Images)

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For the Full Impact, Be Present
imagesCommunication doesn’t require, but is greatly amplified by, presence. Texting, emailing and exhorting on social media don’t come close to the authenticity of communicating in person, to other persons. Scott Peterson notes that communication “is only seven percent verbal, that body language accounts for 55 percent of the message and that tone of voice represents the remaining 38 percent.

“If this is true,” Scott adds, “we may still be the only species with opposable thumbs, but if all we use them for is texting, we are missing 93 percent of the other person’s message.”

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Radiologists Learning How to ‘Glow’
There’s discussion over whether radiologists should provide the results of CT scans and mammograms directly to their patients, rather than pass them along to the primary physicians. But, a Stanford Medicine posts notes, radiological residents are attending training programs, like “Coming Out of the Dark” at the UMass Memorial Medical Center, to help them relate better to patients who may be the recipients of bad news.

Photo by Offutt Air Force Base

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Communication for First Responders

imagesWho needs assured communication capacity any more urgently than first responders on the scene of a fire or other emergency? Maybe doctors, if they’re not considered first responders. But it’s bizarre, it seems, to find firemen using their own personal cellphones because they don’t have any better means of communicating in a crisis.

So it’s heartening that we’ve come upon a Fierce Wireless Tech post that FirstNet, a broadband network for first responders nationally, is proceeding to be installed nationally. FirstNet won’t have to compete with public access to commercial broadband networks.

We applaud Firstnet’s progress in bringing a reliable communication channel to firemen and other first responders, people who need reliable communication capacity as much or more than the rest of us.

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Talking With Teenagers

imgresThere’s a communication challenge in seeking to have open, extended conversations/communication with teenagers. There’s a gap between age, experience and confidence that parents often find hard to bridge. A post on News-PressNow.com notes that “Teenagers will try to get away with answering with one-word responses like ‘OK, fine, all right,’ but don’t accept those responses, experts say. Always encourage teens to give more to the dialogue exchange, and parents can do this by asking specific questions such as ‘What did you learn in chemistry class?’ or ‘What did you get on your quiz in history class?,’ feeling free to ask follow-up questions.”

Prompting continuing communication with children as they grow is part of the art of parenting. “The most important thing,” adds the News-Press post, “is to make sure the child in question is able to speak to someone so that what’s bothering him or her can be addressed.” Good luck, and persevere, parents.

Illustration from Developing Minds blog

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Grace, The Highest Value

Church-goers wait to enter the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina June 21, 2015, for the first service in the church since a mass shooting left nine people dead during a bible study. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Church-goers wait to enter the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina June 21, 2015, for the first service in the church since a mass shooting left nine people dead during a bible study. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

The past couple of weeks in Charleston, South Carolina have been both ghastly and beautiful, and they will be remembered that way. The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was brought to our attention by a horrible act of evil, and, later, was held in mind by feelings expressed in a court hearing room of forgiveness and, as The New York Times put it, “a moment of grace”.

Not fairness – nothing that occurred at the Emmanuel Church when the weekly Bible study there ended in gunshots was fair. But grace, which goes beyond fairness when an act of seemingly inconsolable horror occurs and is forgiven.

“The occasion,” The Times reported, “was a bond hearing, the first court appearance of the suspect, Dylan Roof, for the murders, thought to be racially motivated, of nine black men and women” during Emanuel’s Bible study class.

“You have killed some of the most beautifulest people that I know,” Felicia Sanders told Roof, who was watching from confinement on closed-circuit television. “Every fiber in my body hurts, and I will never be the same. Tywanza Sanders is my son, but Tywanza was my hero. Tywanza was my hero. But as we say in Bible study, we enjoyed you. But may God have mercy on you.”

When fairness is forgotten, or doesn’t even come into the picture, there are still higher values that we must cherish. They were expressed by the relatives of those who were killed by Roof’s pistol. Forgiveness seemed to come readily to the relatives who spoke at his hearing, but that was likely because they honored their family members more than the court proceeding itself.

So, yes, of course, let’s be fair, by all means. But in the face of ultimates, of promptings we can’t readily comprehend, let’s be grace-filled too, in the belief that something awful can occur that might indeed be made comprehensible. Should that happen, it would clearly be of the highest value.

Meanwhile, Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal columnists who often writes more stridently, the other day proposed the surviving Charleston relatives for the Nobel Peace Prize. Yes!

Futile Freeways: Who Slows Down to Move Ahead?

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When you try to go faster on a thruway, you can go slower. Whenever everybody tries to go faster, traffic slows to a crawl, or stops. The fairest way to drive on a busy highway is to take your time; that way, everybody around you – if they only knew the secret – has a better chance of moving safely along.

These thoughts arose while reading a fascinating column in The Wall Street Journal recently by Jo Craven McGinty – “See a Quick Way Through Traffic? Not So Fast”. Sometimes, often, in fact, wisdom is counter-intuitive.

What happens when traffic is thickening is that “if something unexpected happens, it leads to sudden braking and what might have been a manageable slowdown becomes a miserable crawl…” Traffic engineers, McGinty reports, are considering an array of technical approaches to heading off snarls – measures like variable speed limits, ramp meters and “zipper mergers” to alleviate congestion. But, at their core, human consciousness, highway backups are attitudinal.

If we all try to get ahead, heedless of what’s beginning to occur around us, we’ll all get slowed down, or stopped. What can we do to induce more reflection, more shared awareness, in daily living? That’s a tough one. It arises not only on highways, but in workplaces, in government offices and legislative halls. Driver education instructors may attempt to acquaint trainees with the relational realities of traffic buildups, but not all the “finer points” are recalled when licensed drivers are behind the wheel. The instinct is to get ahead, before the guy coming up from behind.

“We’re telling them to slow down to reach their destination faster,” says a highway engineer quoted by Ms. McGinty. Yet that’s counter-intuitive. “It’ll be hard for the driver to recognize that,” the engineer adds.

How much about living is counter-intuitive? A lot. If we realized just how much, unwanted results might ease up and we’d all be happier. But that won’t be happening any sooner than freeway travel improves in heavy traffic.

As Ferguson Points Up, Police Aren’t Soldiers

Ferguson_SWAT-490x295 In light of the chaotic situation at Ferguson, MO, we have to get serious in considering what a local police force is about. “Preserving peace and order,” used to be the instinctive answer. Yet, in virtually any human activity, trappings make a difference. And at Ferguson, the appearance of police officers suited up as though they were military attack squads raises misgivings.

The police have sometimes difficult, occasionally threatening, and always somewhat unpredictable jobs. They do great and important work, and they knew it would be challenging when they signed on as recruits. But they’re still local police, community employees, not military occupiers, and why would they want to create an impression of being something they’re not? Especially when, as in Ferguson, it’s apt to be a provocative one.

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Communication Comes Readily, But Not Assuredly

Human communication occurs instinctively, but it doesn’t always occur instinctively well. Far from it. Communication shouldn’t be considered an impromptu trait. In moments of stress, or in organizational settings (not that organizations need be stressful), communication can, and often does, go awry.

Rather than an impromptu exchange, communication needs to be well-considered. Fairness, indeed, requires that.

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Fairness at TMI, Back Then and Now

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Turns out, I’ve had an abiding interest in fairness since boyhood. Don’t know why, but at least since I had my paper route all those years ago, I wanted to be a reporter so I could go out, get people’s stories and tell them accurately.

That’s what I did for 20 years, principally on the late, lamented Philadelphia Bulletin. But then, in 1979, the accident at Three Mile Island Unit 2 occurred and, a couple of months later, a former colleague at The Bulletin called to advise that he’d just been named TMI’s Communications Manager, and did I want to come out to be its Media Relations Manager? He was calling on behalf of the GPU Nuclear Corp., which was being formed to apply the lessons of the Unit 2 accident on behalf of General Public Utilities, TMI’s owner/operator.

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