(These thoughts were partly prompted by the video of Chris Anderson’s presentation How web video powers global innovation at TED, and this interview with him at beet.tv about the power of the spoken word: Video is a “Reinvention of the Spoken Word”).
Communication is not words, or images, or ideas – it is the sharing of such words and ideas and images from one person to another, shared in a “total communication package.” There is something inherently different. “better” about the quality of a communication encounter between two human beings conducted in each other’s presence, face-to-face.
A phone call, a blog post, an e-mail, a set of PowerPoint slides on a screen – none of these have the power, the impact, of a face-to-face encounter. Such an encounter allows for facial expressions, emotional connection, evaluation of motives, in a way that all other forms can keep hidden.
The spoken word, spoken to one other human being, with little to “hide behind” in any part of the moment, is the most powerful and the most honest communication.
Think about some really powerful examples of this in movies. I could list many – I will just list one. In the crucial scene between the characters played by Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men (the one in the court room, the famous “You can’t handle the truth” scene), it is as though they are the only two people in the room, or even on the planet. The close-ups, the eyeball-to-eyeball nature of the coversation, the unwavering, undistracted focus on the “other,”… it is the most powerful of moments. Watch it again: notice the absolute focus of the two participants on each other. Notice their “presence” to each other in the conversation.
Now I love the convenience and the possibilities raised by modern communication methods, the technology of the modern era. But here is a simple question: are you comfortable with, and good at, face-to-face communication? Are you good at giving undivided attention in a conversation to another human being? If not, this is something to work on. It will help you at work, in your community, in your most important relationships.
The world really does move forward in the midst of focused conversations. We even have books describing the importance of such moments; Crucial Conversations, Fierce Conversations. And, to state the obvious, to have a crucial, a fierce, conversation, you first have to know how to have a conversation.
(and, yes, “I’m talking to myself”,” also).
update: right after I posted this, my blogging colleague Bob Morris posted Jenny Ming (President and CEO, Charlotte Russe) in “The Corner Office”. It completely reinforced the underlying premise of these reflections. Here’s how it ends:
Bryant: And what was the lesson?
Ming: I learned very early on to communicate, to set expectations and not be afraid to tell the truth.