What is the mark of an effective communicator? This is a question I’ve asked myself a lot lately as I prepare to reenter the job market. To be sure, an effective communicator must be passionate about the message, but how should that passion be relayed to an audience? Certainly not with the belligerence often displayed on social media. Even those schooled in the art of communication sometimes trip over their biases until both feet end up in their mouth. How can the public be expected to make sense of messages delivered with malice? The answer may be as simple as – we are not expected to understand them at all. Instead the intent is to provoke a response so ignorant, so violent that messages are exchanged until only their damage remains.
These last few weeks I have done a great deal of research into leadership opportunities as I decide what’s next for me, and this is what I think – in the wake of recent bloodshed at home and abroad, there is an urgent need for a coherent message that will unite those of us who desire to live in peace. In my reading, I came across these words:
We live in age disturbed, confused, bewildered, afraid of its own forces, in search not merely of its road but even of its direction. There are many voices of counsel, but few voices of vision; there is much excitement and feverish activity, but little concert of thoughtful purpose. We are distressed by our own ungoverned, undirected energies and do many things, but nothing long. It is our duty to find ourselves.
This message is as relevant today as it was in 1907, when it was included in an address given at Princeton University by Woodrow Wilson. It does not surprise me that we have made little progress in effectively communicating the message that we are all in this together, because there are many people committed to creating divisions that serve their own agenda. This is effortless for those who live for the sound bite. Abraham Lincoln said in his speech at the Republican State Convention in 1858, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” How’s that for a sound bite?
There will always be those whose goal it is to spin thoughtful remarks into a puddle of blather. It occurs to me that my quoting Lincoln paraphrasing Jesus might be contorted into some insensitive religious commentary on the uncivil war currently underway in the United States. To rise above it I think Rudyard Kipling said it best when he counseled, “…If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,…” I take comfort in knowing I have the courage of my convictions. Plus, we don’t have knaves in the U.S. We do, however, have our fair share of fools.
I obviously have too much time on my hands.