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Communication Tip:

Originally written by Kerry for tutorial reference material, rewritten for Communication Weekly.

The Beginning of Mediocrity—an unconscious intention

It's said that physicians write illegible prescriptions in part because they are practicing medicine and therefore unconsciously resist being responsible for prescriptions that might not work. i.e. "Here, try this." Pharmacists acknowledge that poor cursive handwriting on prescriptions communicates uncertainty and causes them frustration; doctors, ostensibly committed to the well-being of others, actually frustrate some new pharmacists who try to interpret prescriptions; many are forced to call the doctor's receptionist for clarification. Most doctors otherwise do write as legible as most people so it's not that they can't write neatly. Medical schools have yet to teach the value of "being here now" with each correctly formed complete letter. The consciousness it takes to form correct letters when writing a prescription communicates an intention to have the prescription work as envisioned. It also works to enroll the patient in recreating the doctor's intention, "So, are we intending that this will work?"  Any hesitancy in the patient's reply reveals that there are non-verbalized withholds (considerations) in the space between the patient and the doctor.

This article is not about the penmanship of physician's, rather it addresses what I believe to be the beginning of most everyone's addiction to mediocrity, to being incomplete, and to doing incomplete work. Just as there have been consequences for your first lie (i.e. Did you brush your teeth?), the one for which you have not been acknowledged (caught), so too has there been a lifetime of undesirable consequences for thwarting, among others, your penmanship teacher. i.e. If your child (or your boss or employee) does sloppy work, thwarting your stated intentions, you'll notice that to this day you continually thwart the success of your penmanship teacher; you have ensured that he/she failed.

We begin with three premises having to do with communication:

1) All lies and all truths have consequences, even the lies of which you are unaware. (i.e. ". . . til death do us part . . ." "I'll pick you up at six." "No, you can't have any candy." "I'll be with you in a second.")

2) If you have poor penmanship then you have in fact thwarted the success of your penmanship teacher for which there has been a lifetime of undesirable ever-compounding consequences. Not that you're a bad person deserving of failure but that when you need and don't get support for an endeavor of yours you can't be certain if it's about your integrity; if it's about you paying yourself back for thwarting another.

3) If as a teacher you were paid to teach a student to write legibly and you failed, then you are/have been out-integrity, for which there have been ever-compounding undesirable consequences, for both you and the student and, for everyone with whom you relate. An acknowledged teacher communicates up-front the number of students for which he/she is willing to be responsible. i.e. "I can cause 12 students per class to master legible penmanship." They also communicate upfront the student-parent-peer-support staff agreements they insist upon. It's unethical to accept wages for causing students to fail (students always mirror a teacher's leadership-communication skills).

One either gets the job done or they have their reasons. Stated responsibly, a teacher would say: "I failed to get into communication with the student and his/her parents." "I see now that I did not have an intention for all my students to write legibly." "I have dozens of "valid" reasons as to why I fail to cause all students to recreate my stated intentions, among those reasons is my rock-solid belief that it can't be done." "In truth, students with poor penmanship mirror my leadership-communication skills."

Now here's the tricky, possibly uncomfortable, part: We are always manifesting our intentions. Some results we produce are exactly what we envision; other results are not what we say/believe we want. Just because one is unaware of how they manifested an undesirable less-than-satisfying result doesn't mean they didn't intend it (albeit unconsciously). That is to say, unbeknownst to the above penmanship teacher, he/she did not have an intention for all students to master legible penmanship; the teacher only believed that he/she intended for students to perform as expected. We know this to be true because it's most likely that the above teacher could, if assigned only one student, cause that student to duplicate the standard for cursive handwriting. It's not that a penmanship teacher doesn't know how to teach to a standard, it's that few teachers are being supervised correctly, even fewer have studied the subject of intention.

Whaaat? You say a teacher unconsciously intends for some students to fail? Yes. As with learning to ride a bicycle, one repeatedly fails and then voilà, succeeds. Most teachers, those stuck in mediocrity, haven't failed enough; they have become stuck somewhere in the communication mastery curriculum. They keep doing their imitation of communication which produces more of the same results. When communication takes place the results are as envisioned. When teachers fail to communicate subject matter their students are required to take remedial courses during their freshman college year. Ironically, it's not a teacher's fault; their own university speech-com professors failed to teach them how to communicate subject matter.

A "teacher" stuck in mediocrity imparts his/her addiction to doing incomplete work, to being incomplete, to each and every student. A "teacher" who fails to teach each student to recreate the accepted cursive standard is in fact out-integrity. They are dragging around a life-time of similar perpetrations (including their addiction to doing incomplete work) into each and every interaction throughout each day—for which there are undesirable consequences.

For example: I know only a handful of people who can be trusted to clean a window without supervision (two of these are my step-daughters who learned to clean at ages 9 and 10). Notice that I don't write, "completely clean" or "perfectly clean" or "thoroughly clean w/no smears." —this is because the word clean means clean. Most people have never been required to clean a window, instead they've washed windows; they do a pretty good job, one that's appropriately acceptable to most; however, upon examination we see (in various lighting) that they leave grease-like smears, especially the out-gassing vinyl vapors adhering to the inside surface of car windshields; one can easily see these smears on a humid evening or before the defogger takes effect (read about cleaning training). BTW: A clean window doesn't have the invisible film for dirt and dust to adhere to easily and so it appears to stay cleaner longer.

For me this pattern of doing sloppy work began with my penmanship class teacher. The majority of penmanship teachers allow a student to write on un-lined paper before he/'she has mastered consistently writing within the lines. With few exceptions most students can do the practice exercises, the circles and the up and down strokes within the lines; it's about muscle memory which comes though repetition (lots and lots of repetition. A student who can't seem to stay within the lines is communicating something; it's a teacher's job to discover just what the student is communicating. When the truth is told the problem disappears. In rare instances the problem has to do with the mind and coordination and dexterity and as such the student is referred to a counselor or physician.

Someone in the process of becoming a teacher fails to intend that each student demonstrate an ability to consistently form letters per the examples on the chalk board. If a student's dexterity and coordination is such that he/she can't do the practice circles and strokes within lines then a teacher gets into communication with the student and when necessary the student's parents, so as to ensure no child is left behind. A qualified penmanship teacher will require a failed student to repeat their class the following year. All teachers thereafter are supposed to rigidly support the success of the school's penmanship teacher.

A student who successfully cons his/her penmanship teacher into accepting mediocrity disrespects most educators for life, this disrespect is evidenced by the absence of wage parity between longshoremen and teachers (for more about acknowledging teachers via their pay).

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Check back occasionally for minor edits (last edited 8/7/13)

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