We (Nancy, Brandy and Samantha) form a generational string of women in one family. They are three women, each with views and opinions formed by their environment and the times in which they grew up. Therefore, we thought it would be fun for each of us to address the same topic from our own unique paradigms and combine them into a single article. This is how 1 Topic, 3 Voices was born. Each month we will tackle a single topic and answer without first reading the others’ answers. These are combined for you here. This month, in honor of Mother’s Day, we feature the topic: Lessons in Communication from my Mother. If you have suggestions on questions for future editions of 1 Topic, 3 Voices we welcome you to comment below.
Lessons in Communication from my Mother
Any character defect we have, we can trace blame back to our mother. It’s always the mother’s fault, isn’t it? Being the oldest generation of this Three Voices column, I get to be the mother they can look back to and to blame for any shortcomings.
But as they can look back to me, I too can look back to my own mother. I can see the lessons in communication I learned from her have been passed down through me to Brandy and then Samantha. I’m proud to say, both my daughter and granddaughter are communicators. Writing, speaking, reading, listening, everything our Exploring Expressions blog stands for, can be attributed to their ability to make themselves understood. If they can to point back to me for some of their communication skills, then I, too, have to look back to my mother.
I am certain that the one best lesson my mother taught me was to speak properly. Poor grammar and slang were reasons for a smack to the back of the head. (Yes, mothers were allowed to smack kids way back then.) When my mother was a child, English was the second language in her home; both her parents were originally from Germany. As she learned English, she learned the rules of the English language. Mom spoke in full, grammatically correct sentences. If that is what you grow up hearing and speaking, that’s what you learn. And I did.
Because of the way Mom spoke, I never knew anything else.
Grammar lessons in elementary school were silly to me. Why do we need to be taught to speak when we first learned how to talk? It was in this same time frame that I began to realize that not everyone spoke the same way. I would try to say things the way other kids did, but it sounded foreign to my tongue. I just couldn’t do it. Bad grammar did not come easy to me when I was with others, and was unacceptable when I was at home. How many times did I hear, “Ain’t ain’t a word.”
When I was pregnant with my first child, my mother told me she was proud that even with all the influence from kids of my own generation, I retained my abilities to speak with correct grammar. Her praise helped give me confidence to write and speak in the professional world. But more importantly, it convinced me that I was obligated to give my children the same advantage.
Now as I read what my daughter and granddaughter write and I can say the same thing to them that my mother said to me. “I’m proud of the command you have of our language, and your ability to write and speak clearly.” And as I say these words to them, I can believe that part of their success can be traced back to the lessons from my mother.
My mother wasn’t the traditional stay at home mother that was more prevalent when I was growing up. She was an Air force NCO who routinely communicated with many levels of professional people. When I think back on the lessons in communication I learned from watching her and listening to her three prominent pieces of advice come to mind.
People know you by how you speak
My mom used to tell me that people curse when they can’t think of something coherent to say. Therefore the more you curse and use slang or vernacular, the less educated and knowledgeable you sound. The same can be said for glaring grammar errors. She would say no one will ever think you’re smart if you talk like an ignorant person.
It is important to know what Not to say
Have you ever met those people that seem to just over-share all of the time? Well I can guarantee you that none of those people came from my family. My mother taught me that it is never wise to put all of your business out there. Especially in the world of business communication information control is a huge topic. While you want to convey everything necessary to get your message across, you also want to keep your audience wanting more.
Another aspect of this same message is keeping your private business private. This may sound contradictory to being a blogger (especially with my parenting blog Everyone and then Some) however I was taught to always be conscious of the ramifications of information that you share. Once you put something out there, it is extraordinarily hard, if not impossible, to take back.
Words are beautiful.
My mother is a reader and a writer. She is a speaker and a listener. I get my love of words from her. My mother taught me that words can be like music. The right choice of words can strike a perfect note. Words can evoke and shape emotions. Your word choice is the difference between a statement that makes people laugh and one that makes people cry. The right words can tear families apart or bring a nation together. It’s all a matter of word choice.
My mother taught me that language is like a fine musical instrument. To use your instrument well, you must practice it. This, possibly, is the most valuable of all of her lessons in communication. You should learn all of the words that you can – not just to hoard, but to use and to share. Also, it is not enough to know a bunch of words; you also should understand how fit them into coherent sentences — grammar. It is important to learn how words fit together and flow together and sound together. Then, whether you are writing a business memo or a best selling novel, you will be making beautiful music.
Ever since I was little mom bombarded me with advice, in a good way. She taught me how to act in certain places. She coached me on what to say in tough situations and, on the reverse side, what not to say. She’s given me tips on etiquette, shopping, walking, talking, you name it. However, some of the most useful advice she’s given me have been lessons in communication.
One of her many tips on this topic was to represent yourself well.
Most people already have an idea of what they think about you before you even speak. This idea comes from how you act and how you look when they first meet you. When she elaborated on this piece of advice she said to dress nicely, when in doubt it’s better to be over-dressed than under-dressed, be polite, and mature, and nice, and kind, and pleasant. There is a lot of specifics in this one piece of advice, but the general idea of it follow the “actions speak louder than words’ idea. Your words may have a lot of impact, but how you act before, and after, you say them affect how seriously your audience takes you.
Another of my mother’s tips was to talk to, not down to, your audience.
While this is not as broad as the other piece of advice, it’s just as important. When talking to your audience you have to be careful, the way you perceive things may not be how others perceive those same things. For example, if you were being stern in a speech, some people in your audience may view it as an insult. What my mom was trying to say here is that you have to acknowledge as many things as possible about your audience because different groups see things differently. To avoid accidentally talking down to or at your audience she recommended reading it to a couple people before hand and getting their opinion.
I have followed these two lessons in communication because I know that I will look, sound, and be a better speaker and a better communicator.
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