The Six R’s to Beat the Curse

Posted by Barry Flanagan on Feb 13th, 2008
Feb 13


Communication skills are the key to success in my opinion. In technical and scientific fields, mis-communication is often more likely than effective communication. This is a story I enjoy that highlights the difficulty.


A Dispute in Sign Language A Zen master and his one-eyed student lived together in a monastery. One day a wandering monk came to the Zen master and said, “If you will accept me, I wish to study with you.” The old monk replied, “Decide first if you belong here. Go into the garden and speak to my student. Converse with him in any way you wish. After that, come and tell me your decision.”



The visiting monk nervously went out into the garden and saw the one-eyed monk meditating. “I will show him how profound I can be, “ thought the visitor. “I will converse with him in sign language.” Approaching quietly, the visiting monk tapped the one-eyed monk on the shoulder and held up one finger. The one-eyed monk held up two fingers. In response the visiting monk held up three fingers. The one-eyed monk held up his fist. When the visiting monk saw this, he dashed out of the garden to tell the old monk his decision.



He came upon the old monk at his shores and gasped, “I do not deserve to stay here! I am unworthy of being a fellow student with the enlightened young monk I met in the garden!” The old monk paused in his work and asked incredulously, “Are you speaking of the young one-eyed monk in the garden?” “Yes!” exclaimed the visitor. “His knowledge is far superior to mine. I will humbly leave.” “Please tell me what happened in the garden,” said the old monk, wide-eyed with amazement.” The visitor explained, “I approached the venerable monk and decided to converse in sign language. I held up one finger to indicate the Buddha. Whereupon he held up two fingers to indicate the Buddha and his teaching, the Dharma. I persevered in the discussion, however, and held up three fingers to show the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha the community. Then he revealed the limitations of my understanding. He held up his fist to show me that they are all one. I immediately ran here to tell you I must leave.” With a sigh, he turned and left the temple.



A moment later the young one-eyed monk stumbled into the temple. He grumbled and shouted, “Where is that scoundrel? How dare he insult me!” “Calm your temper,” said the old monk. “Please tell me what happened in the garden.” The young monk explained, “I was peacefully meditating when that rude visitor interrupted my concentration. When I looked up at him, he held up one finger, indicating that I have only one eye. I held up two fingers, politely congratulating him that he has two eyes. Then he insulted me further! He held up three fingers, pointing out that there were only three eyes among us. I could bear it no longer. I raised my fist punch him in the nose and he ran away!”


(from Pg. 42 "Wisdom Tales from Around the World", edited by Heather Forest, August House Publishers)



In my experience, I have found that following the Six R’s of Communication will allow you to greatly improve your ability to communicate -

  1. Result: Clearly define the result you want to achieve and what your audience wants to gain before any other decision on what you will say or show.
  2. Rapport: The foundation of effective communication is rapport with the audience. If you cannot connect with the audience, your message will be shut out.
  3. Response: The meaning of anything you communicate is the response of your audience, even if that response was not intended.
  4. Reflect: Reflect on the response you receive. View all feedback, positive and negative, as an opportunity to learn what does and doesn’t work. Keep what works, change what doesn’t.
  5. Range: A great communicator has a broad range and flexibility in tools in the communication toolbox.
  6. Repeatable: Consistent communicators use a process that is repeatable.


These Six Principles are to the key to building a solid foundation for effective communication. Once you have that solid foundation in place, you will found that you can build much more effective and successful skills into all your presentations and speaking opportunities.

Below is a thumbnail of a mind map I made of the Six Rs of communication with MindJet Mind Manager. Click on the thumbnail for a full size view.



Six Rs of Communication

(Click on image for full size view)



In my opinion, these six simple rules are the key to being a great communicator and to overcoming the curse of knowledge. I will dive down deeper into each one in future posts.



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11 Responses

  1. Mario Rodriguez Says:

    Fantastic post. I wish there were more resoruces targeted at helping IT people learn how to be better presenters.

    Love the Google maps widgets, BTW.

  2. Great Tech Speakers on Video, Part III | Public Speaking for Geeks Says:

    [...] I have more in this series planned, and several posts on bad speakers. I am still crafting the first in the deep dive series on the Six Rs to beat the curse. [...]

  3. Public Speaking for Geeks » Blog Archive » Why I Blog Says:

    [...] was the beginning of my journey to becoming a more effective speaker. My idea for the post on "The Six Rs to Beat the Curse" is based on Ed’s advice. "The audience decides the meaning" is the basis for [...]

  4. Public Speaking for Geeks » Blog Archive » The Secret to Creative Presentations Says:

    [...] my post "The Six R’s to Beat the Curse", I included a simple mind map of the Six [...]

  5. Public Speaking for Geeks » Blog Archive » But This is a Technical Presentation! Says:

    [...] the person who created most of the content did not take this response as feedback (the Reflect of the Six Rs) but became defensive. When I remarked that one slide had over 100 words on it, the volume and the [...]

  6. Public Speaking for Geeks » Blog Archive » Public Speaking for Geeks - Hottest IT Market + Sex = ? - March 19, 2008 Says:

    [...] with the audience through understanding what results they would like to achieve (all part of the Six Rs of Communication) . The great majority of the IT Market is still men. It is not at all unusual to see beautiful [...]

  7. Public Speaking for Geeks » Blog Archive » The Inner Game of Public Speaking Says:

    [...] You can see much of this advise in the Six Rs of Communication. [...]

  8. Public Speaking for Geeks » Blog Archive » Screencasting Presentation Says:

    [...] is certainly not perfect and has given me the opportunity to learn some valuable lessons as I reflect on the [...]

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  11. Public Speaking Blog Articles: Week in Review [2008-03-08] Says:

    [...] The Six Rs to Beat the Curse [...]

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