Convergence Blog

An American philosopher, Tom Morris, when asked what mattered in life, responded by saying, “I believe everything matters.”  This is especially true of communication, it all matters.  When you come into my office, you see the abstract painting shown above on my wall.  This painting represents a conversation. The green and blue lines symbolize two speakers with multiple perspectives.  You will notice that the brightest colors are in the middle of the painting where the speakers multiple perspectives intersect.  These four brightly colored areas symbolize discovery and a deepening of understanding.

Our shared values contain a statement that came from Stephen Covey who said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  He also said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”  One of my early mentors in the field of Communication Disorders and Sciences was Dr. Kenneth Burk, who used to say that listening well is hard work.  When people are “in the zone” of good communication, they listen and then ask questions that clarify or reveal more depth about what is being said.  After someone says something, it may take a few seconds to develop a good question.  Herein lies another important skill modeled by Dr. Burk, the ability to be comfortable with a few seconds of silence as meaningful questions are formed.  He knew the power of silence and was comfortable with it when forming questions and when waiting for responses.

As a Speech-Language Pathologist and a leader, I understand the complexity of communication and the extra effort needed to do it well.  The speed, tone, consonantal stress, nonverbals, and the right words all matter.  Maya Angelou once said, “Words are things, I’m convinced. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, in your clothes, and finally, into you.  We must be careful about the words we use.” Whether it is with students or colleagues, it is worth the extra effort to bring your best self to the conversation by paying attention to the subtleties that expand horizons, heal wounds, or warm hearts..

Some conversations are difficult and may require courage.  The difficult conversations invite us to be mindful about the previously mentioned communicative subtleties.  This mindfulness preserves the dignity of all who are communicating or conveys empathy with others in clinical/practicum sites.  I challenge my graduate students each week with clinical scenarios where they practice coming up with the right words to respond to patients or parents; this is time well spent.

Good communicative interactions create positive energy.  We feel a deeper engagement with students and our colleagues as this happens and experience a warping of time where minutes evaporate quickly.  Those instances where we say, “Where did the time go?” provide an energy all their own.  You feel this energy, for example, when teaching classes where students are highly engaged or when communicating with colleagues where the sharing of multiple perspectives creates deeper understanding or new ideas.

The name of my painting is Convergence, a coming together if you will.  Thoughtful conversations empower our community to come together for the betterment of everyone so we can fulfill our mission of preparing students for academic, professional and personal success.  As in the painting, this is where you will find the brightest spaces.

Maya Angelou quote (2012). Retrieved February 16, 2014 from:

Covey, S. (1989 ). The seven habits of highly effective people. New York: Free Press.

Thomas V. Morris

Dr. Burk2
Dr. Kenneth Burk