How To Communicate With Mom

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on June 11, 2008
Tags: , ,

me and mom.

From the very beginning, the relationship with my mother has been complicated: close, conflicted, and somewhat interdependent.

Who knows the most about me? Mom.

Who drives me the craziest? Mom. (Though Michael’s closing in at second place…)

Who’s the one who — in my mind — knows it all, yet manages to disagree with most everything I throw out there?

Yup. Mom.

Which is why I knew beyond a doubt that Deborah Tannen’s You’re Wearing That?: Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation was a must-read.

For the sake of this particular post, I passed the book along to my mother after I finished with it, and then “interviewed” her for her reactions.



Friday and The Infinite Wisdom of Others

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on November 24, 2007
Tags: , , , , ,

friday wisdom.
Some people have been saying that this whole Internet thing is the wave of the future, so it occurred to me that I could turn to the world of web publishing for advice every once in awhile. And so I bring you … Friday and The Infinite Wisdom of Others.

This week:

Gretchen over at The Happiness Project posted on the three types of fun: challenging, accommodating, and relaxing. For example, those three hours I spent watching re-runs of Project Runway the other night could be considered relaxing fun, as I didn’t really have to exert myself in any way, except when I ran out of root beer and had to get my butt off the couch and go get myself a refill. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to attempt some more challenging. Like maybe I should get my tush in gear and learn how to sew so I can put together this year’s costume for Santacon. Gretchen also gives some tips on getting up the energy for that challenging fun-stuff.

The hilarious Lucy Lastic over at recently posted on taking on too much…and then accidentally letting things fall by the wayside when the latest obsession comes along. As I told Lucy, I tend to have this problem a lot. I fixate on newly acquired interests, to the detriment of all other things. Which is why I have a belly dancing skirt stuffed into my pajama drawer, a basket of yarn and fabric under the end table in my living room, and the bookshelf contents of a sexual deviant (don’t ask). Lucy also gives some tips on how to overcome such single-minded obsessions, thank god. Check it out.

I stumbled upon this post using StumbleUpon. The posting frequency of the site overall seems sporadic, but I was interested to see that Ralph’s insights on how to start a meaningful conversation dovetailed with my own previous thoughts on the intersections between journalism and communication.

And finally, if you’re feeling a bit forsaken because I’ve taken a break from the printed page, not martha just started spreading the word about a special sale at Chronicle Books. I know. I can’t stay away either.

How to Communicate by Thinking Like a Journalist

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on November 9, 2007
Tags: , , , ,

audio recorder.

Once upon a time, the editor of a small, community, mom-and-pop magazine convinced me to stop studying journalism when he told me I wasn’t aggressive enough to be a reporter.

Five years later, that same editor was offering me a staff reporter position at the mag, trying to convince me to leave my stable marketing gig in the world of academic book publishing, apparently having completely forgotten that young college student whose dreams he had so thoughtlessly dashed.

In the interim, I had read The Art of the Interview by Lawrence Grobel, and had since made use of the skills I’d learned therein on stories I’d worked on for this editor’s magazine. The interviews I were conducting by then were a lot of fun…long and languorous and fascinating. I credit this book to some of my improvement and success on this front.

One of the most important lessons I learned when reading Grobel’s book was to be prepared. “The most important thing going into an interview is your knowing so much about it that you wouldn’t even need the interview,” he quotes from another notable in the field.

Not only does thorough preparation allow one the time for more in-depth discussion, but the mere fact that one is prepared allows one a greater confidence in approaching their subject.

Since self-confidence in general has never been my forte, I began thinking of how I could apply lessons learned about journalistic practices to my everyday life. Which made this quote leap out at me upon my second reading of the book: “‘Your class wasn’t about meeting celebrities,’ one student e-mailed me. ‘It was about learning how to communicate. It was about confronting new comfort levels. It was about self-confidence.'”

And so, what you can learn from the journalistic masters:

  • Take a Deep Breath. As terrified as you may be, your interview subject is often just as nervous. If you can remember that, the balance of power will shift to something a bit more equal.
  • Don’t Worry About Stumbling Through Small Talk. Just touch upon everyone’s favorite subject — themselves! Not to say that we’re all a bunch of narcissistic fools, but we’re often more comfortable and confident when talking about what we know best. So ask a lot of open-ended questions of your subject, and the conversation follow smoothly from there.
  • The Well is Bottomless. Like the most tenacious investigative reporter, dig deeper. Follow lines of conversation and interesting asides through to their logical conclusions. Not only will you learn things you may not have known before, but it will prove you to be a fine listener.
  • Be Sure That This is the Next Big Story. Improving your listening skills will only make you a better conversationalist in the long run. If you are truly concentrating on your subject — rather than waiting for your chance to jump in with your own one-up story — your partner-in-discourse will eventually return the favor. So treat the person your talking with as if they’re your most fascinating subject ever. If you learn to enjoy conversation, you’ll completely forget to worry about it!