Leveraging verbal communication for educational session utilization

So I’ve switched up my classes a bit.

Originally I was signed up for Human Information Behavior, the one that met on Wednesdays at 3:30. Well, this past Wednesday rolled around, and I had every intention of going, but then it was 1, and suddenly I really really didn’t want to go. Partly I hated the rushed feeling of chopping my day short, and partly it was imagining walking back into that room with ~25 students sitting in a stupid circle, and going over the incredibly boring readings we were assigned.

The readings were basically user studies, from literature review to methodology to conclusions (well, sometimes). Typical of academic research papers, and what we would be expected to replicate in our group (yuck) projects. And it all left me with a bad feeling. Maybe because the papers we read were so boring, or because of the group aspect. Or maybe because I didn’t know anyone in that class, and occuring in the afternoon, it had a different vibe than a night class, in which you know everyone has a full-time job.

Or I’m just lazy. Whatever the reason, that Wednesday afternoon I decided to drop that class and pick up another, which is on Thursday nights.

In a way this class is similar to Wednesday’s: it’s more theoretical, specifically about how media and the design of things shape and affect our lives. It’s pretty loosey-goosey – our only assignment is a project on basically anything we want – and there are just eight people in the class. But I think it will at least be interesting, and a good contrast to my other two more pragmatic classes.

I am not 100% clear on what the project is – I think basically it’s a designing a research study on some hypothesis. Initially I thought maybe I’d do something on how certain advertising affects the behavior of a certain part of the population, or maybe something about celebritydom and how though people may snark about celebrities, they still talk about them.

Then it occured to me that maybe I could do something on corp speak, and how it shapes the corporate environment, or vice versa.

When I started at my company as a secretary, I didn’t know corp speak. I’d hear the managers talking – “We can leverage learnings from that initiative to create synergies with key stakeholders” – and think, What the hell are they talking about? The language created a division between those in the club (managers) and those outside (secretaries).

But then I got promoted and started going to more and more meetings (the phenomenon of meetings could be a research topic too), and slowly started to learn this new language. Now a few years later, I’m totally fluent.

When I speak of it, I’m very conscious of it, and can toggle back and forth between corp speak and regular English – though sometimes unconsciously I bring it home. MB hates it when I say, “I reached out to that person,” instead of just “I talked to him,” or “I emailed him.” I wonder if other people are as conscious of it too.

It’s not just overblown words that don’t mean anything, but cliched catch phrases like, “At the end of the day,” and “Walk the walk and talk the talk.” Another one I hate is using “utilize” instead of just, well, “use.” And capitalizing things that don’t need to be capitalized.

But I know that people listen more when I talk corp speak; I’m taken more seriously. And as a communications person, I have to use it all the time.

I’m not sure what kind of study I could do. I’ll have to think about it more.

There is one guy in the class who’s super annoying. He wears a scarf indoors and kept dropping names like Nietzsche and Kierkegaard and Hegel. Okay, we get it, you’re fucking smart. Or at least you think you’re smart. Then he kept talking about despair and suffering and angst. Why do I have a feeling that this guy has no idea what real suffering is?

We also talked about the idea of heroes, and the teacher asked if we had any, and I realized I don’t really. I mean, there are people I admire, like Madeleine L’Engle and Michael Chabon, but I wouldn’t call them my heroes. The only ones I’d consider my heroes are people who are close to me, who rose out of extenuating circumstances, not unscathed but strong and whole, and who, despite the past, face each day with joy.

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