"If you can't put your ideas into words that others can understand, you could say that the ideas don't actually exist," Assis Malaquias once told me. My jaw dropped and my horribly written term paper nearly fell out of my hand. He was right. (He was my professor of International Politics at St. Lawrence in the Fall of 2001... He also told me that I should be reading every spare second I have in my life if I want to keep up with the world. He was so right about everything it was frightening.) Does a concept actually exist if you cannot make another person understand it? I... I can't prove that it does. So much for living in my head.
In library school, it was totally drilled into my head that I MUST be able to ADVOCATE FOR MY LIBRARY in ways, such as:
- writing newsletters;
- sending out weekly mass emails highlighting learning that is occurring in the library;
- sharing student success stories with administrators, teachers, parents, and the community;
- advertising ways the library serves the learning community;
- telling others of our struggles and what conditions would make the library even more successful than it already is;
- informally discussing the library with a wide variety of people;
- I'm sure this list could go on and on, but these were the first bullet points that came to mind and I will stop there. Please feel free to point out anything I have missed!
I seem to have this undercurrent fear that I will FAIL as a teacher librarian because I won't be able to integrate myself with the learning community in which I will teach. This is silly and unrealistic. I have never had communication problems in any of the jobs I've ever held in my life. It's just that this new career is HINGING on my ability to communicate well. A librarian must be very good at striking a balance between speaking out about something, and knowing when to keep her mouth SHUT. Maybe it's that balance that worries me because sometimes I go through times when I just talk toooooooo much and other times I withhold my thoughts.....
Communication skills can ALWAYS be improved, I think. There is no such thing as perfection when it comes to knowing how to exchange ideas well. Plus, there are always certain individuals out there who have a tendency to challenge one's skills by being difficult... You know? So that whole thing leads me to the Question: How may I improve my communication skills?
In order to find a way to improve, I first must honestly and humbly examine my strengths and weaknesses as a communicator. That's the hard part. This is where my mind has been for the past several days. I've been watching how others communicate including how certain points are emphasized and how to present ideas in such a way that they are well received. Here are a few nuggets of info that I have gathered: (These work for me. Everyone has their own situation.)
- To communicate well, it usually helps if I'm relaxed.
- If I over-prepare, I psych myself out, and if I don't think about what I'm doing, I'm a flop.
- My biggest challenge when I'm nervous about formally communicating to important people is often knowing and speaking to my audience.
- Sometimes I don't emphasize the important points enough, and I am working on improving that.
- I am my own worst critic.
- I need to just let myself be in the moment and speak my mind.
- They say to pick your battles, but if I'm worried about that I don't pick anything and that is just pointless. When I feel empowered, I am a much better communicator!