Section 3. The Explainer/Teller Role

3.0 Overview Of The Explainer/Teller Role

a. What’s the role all about?

At any particular moment in a conversation, the Explainer/Teller is the person who is wanting to be understood. He or she is doing such things as telling a story, making a proposal, delivering a message or sharing a point of view.

When Oliver is talking to his flatmate about his experience with their landlord, he is telling a story. When Jeff is talking to his wife about his consultation at the doctor's surgery, he is in the Explainer/Teller role. When Amanda tells the decorator how disappointed she is in the way her living room has been painted and how she expects it to be redone, she is in the Explainer/Teller role, delivering a message. When Tim gives Natalie his opinion on who should be chosen as the treasurer of the charity they work for, he is in the Explainer/Teller role, sharing a point of view. When Ruth — in talking with a group of friends who are going on vacation together — highlights the advantages of Spain over Florida, she is in the Explainer/Teller role, making a case for the kind of trip she would like.

b. The benefits of being a proactive explainer/teller

Some people are naturally proactive Explainer/Tellers. They seek out opportunities to tell people things they think they’ll find interesting or useful. They like to share their experiences and explain to others how they see the world. These are people who are highly communicative by nature.

Adrian is one of them. He talks freely, openly. At work, where he manages a small team, he makes sure to keep everyone informed about the company’s latest moves. If he makes a contact he thinks someone else will find useful, he passes it on. If he reads an article a colleague might find interesting, he tells them about it. At home, Adrian radiates information and news — a little like a radio station, so everyone in the family knows what’s happening.

As a good all-round communicator, Adrian makes sure he doesn’t overdo the talking. Since he favours two-way exchanges, he makes sure he listens as readily as he talks. In fact, he’s as curious as he is communicative — qualities that don’t always go hand in hand.

Russell, on the other hand, is definitely not communicative. He’s not in the habit of initiating conversations, or passing on interesting pieces of news or useful information.

It’s not that he’s totally unhelpful, it’s more that he just doesn’t go out of his way to be an active Explainer/Teller. At work, people who work with Russell complain about being ‘kept in the dark’. At home, his family tend to lurch from one crisis to another as undiscussed problems ripen and emerge.

If you’re more like Russell than Adrian, there’s a good chance that things in life just seem to ‘happen’ to you, as if people aren’t taking your ambitions, needs and feelings properly into account. That’s a victim way of looking at the situation. In fact, the reason they don’t take your needs and concerns into account is because you haven’t talked about them in the first place. Perhaps it’s time to cultivate a more proactive approach.

c. Persistence and patience — two essential qualities

If you’re a physics teacher attempting to explain the principles of gravity to a class of 14 year olds, you might easily devote an entire lesson to the task. If you’re giving someone instructions over the phone on how to find your house, you might devote 20 seconds to the task.

But in both cases, the principle is the same — responsible communicators stick at the job until it’s done. They are patient and persistent in the pursuit of being understood.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that the physics teacher should stay in the Explainer/Teller role for the entire lesson. Far from it. By engaging his pupils in chunks of challenging dialogue throughout the lesson, the teacher can accelerate and deepen the learning process.

3.1 Engaging The Other Person's Attention
3.2 Using Headlines & Underlines To Introduce Key Points
3.3 Putting Your Conversational Partner In The Picture
3.4 Filling The Picture With Useful Detail
3.5 Bringing Your Stories, Messages, Points Of View And Cases To Life
3.6 Personalising Your Communication
3.7 Encouraging Questions And Dealing With Them Carefully
3.8 Checking That You Have Been Understood Clearly And Completely

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