Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
In the poem “The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost literally shares a moment during a walk in the woods when the speaker comes to a fork in the road and must choose a path to follow. The figurative meaning … now that’s another story. Most people can agree that the poem is about making choices, but that’s just about where the agreement stops. And although I would love to get in teacher-mode and have a lengthy discussion and analyze the heck out of the poem, let’s just all agree that literally and figuratively, the speaker faces a choice between two options. But the speaker demonstrates the communication lesson of this blog - he (or she) takes a moment to think about the choices - “long I stood and looked …”
I love using Google Maps! I try to check in on my parents once a week and work to schedule my visits outside of Houston’s high traffic times (although this seems to be harder and harder to do!). But Google Maps always offers me at least two route choices - and then I take a moment to figure out the best one. Do I want to pay tolls this time? Do I want to fight the narrow lanes on 290? Do I want to merge onto 610 with all the crazy drivers who don’t understand what “merging” means? By taking a moment to think about the options, I can make a more informed choice. Boy do I need to take my own advice! How many times do I “choose” to order the large dinner at the Mexican restaurant without taking a moment to think about how I will feel after I finish it? How many times do I “choose” to buy that pair of shoes without taking a moment to think about how the strap cuts into my toe? How many times do I “choose” to communicate without taking a moment to think about the best time, place, method, or words? My oldest son (now studying to be a veterinarian) loves animals and as a child, easily suckered my equally-animal-loving husband into getting all sorts of creatures. My memory is a bit clouded about all the details (I can’t remember if it was a dog or hamster or rat …), but Austin really wanted a new animal. So, after much consideration of the best time, place, method, and words, one evening he sat us down and “presented” his case including a Powerpoint show with facts and graphs. By taking a moment (really LOTS of moments) to “choose” the most effective way to communicate his ideas, Austin accomplished two important things. First, he took the time to think about his message and choose the best words and best evidence to make his point. Then, he took the time to think about how to present his message looking at the best method, the best place, and the best time (right after dinner in the family room). To be honest, I really don’t remember if Austin ever got that creature, but I still remember his presentation (and have it somewhere on an external hard drive that has been through many computers since then). And I remember being impressed with his communication choices. So just like the speaker in Robert Frost’s poem, I encourage you to take a moment when it comes to communication. There are so many “paths” that you can walk, so be like Google maps. Look at your routes. What is the best time to communicate this message? What is the best place? How can I best communicate my ideas? Do I need to write down any information? Offer a visual to support my message? What are the best words or comparisons or evidence? Do I need to find more information before I share my ideas? Then make an informed choice and pick your best route. etc Strategies believes that you should be aware of your communication choices and take a moment to consider your options. Learn from Robert Frost (and my son Austin)! It truly can make “all the difference” in the success of the communication experience.