By Emma O’Hara, Girls Innovate! Teen Committee
On Saturday January 17th, Palo Alto attorney Soyeun Choi and her amazing team of five attorney (and one law student) mentors delivered an enlightening communications workshop for about 25 girls aged 13-17. One of the great insights that Attorney Choi shared was that communications is a practiced art. Attorney Choi taught us that if you look at every experience as an opportunity to shape and practice your communications style, you can become more successful because you will be more open, adaptable, and confident in yourself.
We were grouped into groups of 4 to 6, and each group had a mentor. The two-hour workshop proceeded in two parts; verbal communications and written communications. Filled with many small group and pair exercises that allowed for meaningful interactions, the event quickly took an air of ease and comfort. As a participant, I was able to connect to my groupmates as well as my mentor through the guided verbal mini-exercises, and it was really neat to experience such a well-structured and timely workshop within a community of women and girls, most of whom met for the first time that day.
My group and I tackled verbal communications by introducing ourselves, solving riddles to explore the ambiguities of language, and finally reflecting on our existing “bad” communication habits. One such habit is the use of filler words such as “like,” “um” and “yeah,” Attorney Choi explained that these filler words can easily be taken out of our vocabulary with practice and awareness.
During the written segment, the idea of professionalism was explored deeply. Texting one’s boss or collaborator should be considered only in emergency situations; the language we use with a boss should be more formal than language with a peer, and all information should be presented very clearly. With pen and paper, the groups worked together to re-write sample emails from a “mean boss” to an employee. As a room, we unanimously agreed that a boss should not use colloquial and degrading terms such as “stupid” and the tone should stay professional and clear, even in a frustrating situation. As a group, we also brainstormed possible ways for setting up a meeting with a peer, an adult or a boss.
At the end of the two hours, Attorney Choi brought everyone back together and assured us that no one starts off as a professional communicator, and that becoming an effective communicator is not about memorizing rules but about developing a style and constantly practicing. We then finished off with a 15-minute Q&A with the mentors at our tables. The young attendees gained various and useful insights about time-management and the opportunities that college provides, while having the chance to contemplate the beginnings of our futures as working professionals.
This Communications Workshop was definitely a success. As the Teen Committee Project Leader of the event, I can wholeheartedly say that Attorney Choi is a great collaborator. She was very punctual, had a vision for what she wanted to do, and was able to inspire everyone to work together and put on this amazingly robust and nuanced experience.
Attorney Choi revealed more wisdom when I interviewed her a week later. She said that communications is simply how we connect to the world around us. This means that, among many other things, how we interpret riddles, how we introduce ourselves and how we write an email are all considered to be communications. The workshop was meant to be a broad introduction to communications so we could open our eyes to the importance of how we present ourselves and the many different forms of communications.
After working with Attorney Choi throughout the planning of the workshop, witnessing her facilitate and present on a somewhat complex topic, and interviewing her on a personal level, I can see her love for communications, but even more I can see her passion about sharing this love with others. She sees life as a great opportunity to connect with the world and communications is an important part of it. I’ve definitely never thought about communications in this way before, and I am inspired to develop and practice my communication style because I want to connect and collaborate with more people like Attorney Choi!
Check out Highlights from the Workshop (thanks to Lydia Sun, our video producer extraordinaire!)