03 Mar Be a Better Communicationer
QUESTION: “What is the first or most important thing you look for in a perspective student?”
ANSWER: “The student must know the difference between ‘perspective’ and ‘prospective.’
I love this exchange. I took it from a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) held by an admissions officer.
Why do I love it?
Because it deals with the topic I’m most interested in—communication.
See, because this guy couldn’t even get his vocabulary straight, not only did he not get his question answered, he became a subject of ridicule. First, by the admissions officer, and now, by me. HAHA!
Yet, as much as we like to mock someone who confuses perspective/prospective. Or the legions who perpetually butcher their/they’re/there or its/it’s—or my personal favorite, the unique breed who can’t sort out descent from decent—we are all guilty of mangling our message or abandoning it altogether in a pinch.
I’m as guilty of this as anyone. Though I believe I communicate well on the page, my oratory skills have long lagged behind. A couple years ago, when delivering a best man speech at a wedding, I mumbled through the whole thing, eyes firmly affixed to my notes. Sure, the writing itself was good and the jokes were funny. But because the words weren’t effectively delivered to the ears in the audience, it didn’t matter.
Truth is, nobody is a master of every form of communication. Some are masters of the written word. Others are consummate conversationalists. There are even body language prodigies out there who can read you like a book without hearing a peep out of you. While it’s great to rely on what you’re naturally good at, addressing your weaknesses is where you’ll get the biggest gains, communication-wise.
And while I’m ostensibly an essay guru, what I really am is a communications guru specializing in written communication. As this recent post demonstrates, writing encompasses so much more than just admissions essays. It was gratifying to hear a former client recently write this to me:
I do have to say—the pointers you gave me regarding my personal statement are surely helping me with some of my more socially-based classes. My TAs have ENJOYED reading my papers and I think that is because of the help you provided me regarding style and how to hook your reader.
She’s a naturally gregarious person who doesn’t consider writing her strong suit. You could say I’m the opposite—I feel more comfortable typing away from behind a laptop than, say, in front of hundreds of wedding guests.
My client is working out the lapses in her communication skills in her own way (a modified approach to writing). I’m working them out in mine (my new podcast, for example).
Ultimately, the message is everything. If you fully and effectively articulate yourself, you should still be satisfied with the result. Like if you had a job interview, nailed it, but still didn’t get the job—no problem, the job just wasn’t for you. Where frustration arises is when you mangle the message. When you do your version of asking a question about “perspective students.”
So, I’d really like to know, have you had perspective/prospective moments that demonstrated lapses in your communication skills? Have you done anything to address them? Did you see improvement? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I won’t post anything without your permission.