Summer Reading – Call it Research!

Summer: the time we promised ourselves we’d get caught up on our reading. Visions of lying out by the pool, or on a sandy beach, digging into those materials we’ve been saving for just such an occasion!

So let me add a couple of things to your reading list, and hope you will find them as edifying as I did. Communication wears many hats!

The first is an unlikely candidate: Inside of a Dog – What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, by Alexandra Horowitz. The author is a behavioral scientist who teaches psychology at Barnard College, Columbia University. Before that, Horowitz worked as a lexicographer at Merriam-Webster and was a staffer at the New Yorker. The result was this #1 New York Times Bestseller.

Inside of a Dog is virtually loaded with good doggy stuff – but you do not have to be a dog lover to appreciate the research, and the human connections she makes. In talking about Rico, a border collie she characterizes as a “skilled word user” for his ability to understand, and to retrieve the correct toy from the more than 200 items in his toy chest, she tells us that there are dogs whose “cognitive equipment” is sufficient for them understand language “in the right context.” Subsequent to Rico’s celebrity, many other dogs have been tested with vocabularies of from 80 to more than 300 words. Be careful what you say in front of your dog!

In discussing communication techniques, Horowitz refers to the work of 20th century philosopher Paul Grice, favorably comparing his four conversational maxims to a dog’s behavioral communication, and noting that in the main, a dog will incorporate each of the four in his or her “conversation.”

The four maxims referred to are: (1) be relevant; (2) be brief and clear; (3) tell the truth; and (4) say only what you need to. The dog senses danger (relevant); alerts you with warning barks until you “get it” (brief and clear); barks only when the apparent danger is there (true); and quits when the danger has passed (having said all he needed to).

You’ll love this book – get on your library’s wait list soon.

The second is the May 20, 2013 Time magazine article about those individuals they have titled The Me Me Me Generation – people born between 1980 and 2000 – basically the children of the what has been called the Me Generation, or the Baby Boomers.

Writer Joel Stein has marshaled his facts well, carefully backing up virtually his every pronouncement, packing the article with information and researchable “proof.” What Time calls The Me Me Me Generation has also been called The Millenials, or Generation Y. Whatever they are called, they constitute the largest generational grouping in American history. Not only an American phenomenon, members of this generation internationally have become quite similar to each other, perhaps as the author speculates, due to globalization, social media, rapid societal changes, and the spread of Western culture. Perhaps even more similar to each other than to the older generations in each of their own nations.

Stein goes on to say that while the millennials are “most famous” for their narcissism, and for its expected effect of entitlement, they are not trying to take over the establishment – but are growing up without an establishment. Stein characterizes this generation as self-absorbed, lazy, and lacking leaders, yet perhaps “the new greatest generation of optimistic entrepreneurs,” who “will save us all.”

Much, much more in this “must-read” article to begin to understand the generation that will soon be in charge all around the globe. Please share your thoughts after you’ve had a chance to read this thought-provoking article.


Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations; executive coaching, consulting, writing, and editing services. Call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email to learn more.

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