REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Many can identify with implementing bits of wisdom gleaned from parents or other mentors throughout their lives. One retired Navy officer molded those nuggets into an educational endeavor that has now become a fixture of sorts at Redstone Arsenal.

"These are the lessons I've learned at the feet of my father," said retired Navy Capt. Ronald R. Woods, the creator of the eight-program Art of Leadership Developmental Learning System.
Employees from the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Aviation & Missile Center took part in one of Woods' programs, the Art of Communication, July 24-26.

Based on 50 years of research in developing human potential, the Art of Communication teaches what Woods cites as critical skill-sets within four domains. Ethos establishes the credibility and trust between the speaker and audience. Pathos is the force that targets an audience's emotions to allow a connection to form with the speaker. Logos appeals to the audience's logic and reason in order to prove the speaker's statements and Sophos focuses on personal growth.

Some of the lessons focused on topics ranging from public speaking, conflict resolution and handling criticism, to communicating with difficult people, effectively delivering a class or briefing and best practices on preparing PowerPoint slides.

David Ricks, the center's Safety & Environmental Division chief, thought the class would feature challenging concepts and teach how to communicate effectively across the board -- in personal and professional settings.

"It was more than that," he said. "The course provided a depth of understanding regarding the many human factors that affect a person's ability to communicate and accurately receive what was intended to be communicated."

For Rachell Arceneaux, training coordinator, the class offered different perspectives, prompted self-reflection and encouraged students to consider all aspects of communication: body language, thoughts and words.

Based on Dr. Albert Mehrabian's studies, Woods discussed that word choice is the least of what we communicate to others, during a face-to-face conversation. Verbal messages only make up seven percent of the overall message: tone of voice accounts for 38 percent and body language conveys 55 percent.

This means that more than 90 percent of the message is nonverbal. "Body language says so much more (than our words)," Arceneaux said.

Throughout the course, Woods repeatedly reinforced this concept by having the class say aloud, "It's not what the sayer says; it's what the hearer hears," put in simple terms by the child of one of his students.

"The corollary to this is (that) it is incumbent upon the speaker to ensure the message is understood as intended," Ricks said.

Arceneaux enjoyed the interaction with others in the class and what she learned from them; "It's not so much about what they do (professionally), but personal stories that show who they are."

"I learned that I have the privilege of working with some amazingly smart professional people and that their stories, whether about work or something else, are worth hearing," Ricks said.

Woods, whose career spanned nearly three decades, and his father taught the learning system together for about 20 years. Though the lessons overlap, the learning system comprises eight separate courses and each is designed to stand alone. His father, a Navy frogman, now known as SEALs, was an integral part of the course and how it came to be.

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The U.S. Army Aviation & Missile Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.