Mindful Communication
We are in this together.  
Linda (Elle) Yaven

I. 

Teaching at a college of art, design and architecture, I love walking through campus right after finals. All deliverables have been turned in and it's so quiet.

The studios, recently an amazing mess of students cramming, jamming or asleep on couches, are empty. The week before blueprints, fabric, foam core, drawings spill over everywhere. Tables, walls, floor - it is all covered.

Walking through after classes, the ginormous push is over. Things have been displayed, put away or tossed.

The sun shines. A soft bound book, has been left out on a long wooden work table. Moving closer, it's a literary magazine with the words “Qui Parle?” written across the cover. "Who speaks"?
                                 

Teaching Generative Communication in an MBA program, the question was on point.

My students had spent the semester developing the play of their communicative/leadership/creative voices in business environments.

As Design Strategists, my students are training to facilitate change in the face of wicked challenges.
Their toolkit contains narrative practices, from speaking up to listening, from asking hidden questions, to declaring what's not working, from anticipating challenges to facilitating the conflicts naturally arising when people of conviction work together.

We are who, and what, we are able to speak. And what we don’t, won’t or cannot yet say. One intention for class is pivoting from reactive to intentional communication. Without losing mojo. In fact, the opposite.

1. What three words describes your current communication style? 

The course is called "Live Exchange" ("LiveE" for short). During the pandemic, when we met on-line, we managed to keep the interactivity of personalized conversations afloat. A driving ethos for the  class is linking well being and mental health to the nature of our everyday conversations - nothing fancy.

Given the challenges, nowadays this connection is imperative. We engaged in "backwards design";  becoming respectful observers of someone else's experience, of our own conversational impact and of the possibilities we each open or close, simply by showing up.

2. What mood do you leave others in? 

II.

In designing the communication method I coach and teach, a question arose and insisted itself on me:

3. What shall we name the creature willing to apprentice to their own communicative life? 

I’d been wanting to name the persona willing to wear the shoes of a beginner - no matter their expertise - someone willing to choreograph their personal and collective communicative life.

Alongside my business students, I consider "LIveE" as a place to create safe spaces for reflecting, testing out and celebrating the victories and the mess-ups of new conversational habits. I've recurrently witnessed the magic happening when we do this with peers engaged in same.

The word Communicant" arose as a descriptor. So I added to the dictionary definition:

communicant |kəˈmyoōnikənt|
noun
1. archaic a person who imparts information. 
2. 21st century a persona apprenticed to their communicative life.
ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: from Latin communicant- ‘sharing,’
from the verb communicare.

                                                                                      III.

What we find funny is personal. It's the same with our chosen vocabulary - words work well when specifically our own. I admire the courage of a student or a client to stumble around in expressing a thought or feeling. Sharing it out-loud is invaluable; finessing afterwards is an option.

The night before I taught "Live Exchange" for the first time, I saw the comedian Jerry Seinfeld interviewed. Before going onstage to do stand-up, he prayed to The Gods of Comedy. It sounded about right to me.


Ever since, on the first day of class, I make sure to share how The Gods of Comedy and The Gods of Communication are in cahoots. Simply put, an intention for my course is teaching the Communicant to steward everyday conversations - including the pesky/tender one with yourself!

                                               We are having fun, but we are not kidding.

                                                          - Brenda Laurel, Designer

Giving and receiving productive feedback is thematic in the course. Effective communication requires true agility standing ground, despite push back, while having the desire and wherewithal to create  rapport. It requires rapidly building connection, in non B.S. ways.

It is all easier if you make sure your sense of humor hat is on, though it never needs to be on straight.



Your thoughts appreciated!


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