Even “Experts” Struggle with Communication

Hello RCRA members. I’m Dave Mitchell and I have the honor of being the keynote speaker at the RCRA National Conference, November 11 – 14 at the Sun River Resort near Bend, Oregon. I am really looking forward to meeting everyone. Currently, I’m sitting in my office on a Sunday

desperately seeking excuses to not resume work on my summer backyard project. Apparently, I off‐handedly mentioned that we should zeroscape our backyard and put in a sunken fire pit. Apparently, I said that out loud in the presence of my lovely bride. I am now in the process of digging out a 26’ by 18’ by 3’ area for said fire pit. Manually. In the summer. So, I have decided to write an article about communication to avoid hard labor.


The conference theme is MORE. I love that! We will talk about expanding our communication and relationship building effectiveness to more people. That, in turn, leads to more success. More happiness. But I do have to admit that, like the doctor who has a cold and the mechanic whose car doesn’t start, I have my own communication challenges. It involves answering a simple, common question ‐‐ one each of us is asked all the time.


“So, what do you do for a living.”


Generally, I am asked this after this new acquaintance has shared many things about themselves. I am a good listener – although my lovely bride might raise an eyebrow on that assertion – and I ask a lot of questions before I start talking about myself (if ever). That’s critical to connecting with more people. But when the tables are turned and I am asked about my profession, it all gets a bit clunky.


“Well, I am a speaker/author.”


For some reason, even though I have done this for 22 years, presented at over 2000 events, written two books, received several awards and <he says with all modesty> am considered pretty darn good – I always feel self‐conscious about that description. It seems fancy to this rurally raised guy. I tried “educator,” but that morphs into “teacher” in the mind of my counterpart and takes us down a confusing road. I floated “thought facilitator,” but no one had any idea what that meant. “Motivational speaker” conjures up images of a hyper‐caffeinated Chris Farley living in a van down by the river for both of us. So, I have landed on, “I am a speaker/author.”


“What do you speak about?”


“Applied cognitive psychology in business and interactive dynamics”


<Awkward silence>


“My graduate degree is in Global Human Resources Development.”




“I’m also an advanced wine sommelier.” And then we both experience a huge feeling of relief and I resume my more

comfortable role as listener – generally on the topic of wine.


This November, I promise to provide you with MORE useful strategies for enhancing your communication and relationship skills based on applied cognitive psychology principles. Feel free to ask me about wine or my new fire pit, too, although I would much rather learn about you. Just be prepared for a clumsy response when asked about my profession. Like the fire pit, I’m s􀆟ll working on that.

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