Adam Hopkinson’s angry old man rant about how we are using , and abusing, communication channels, was an interesting start to my week. His basic premises is that we should pay more attention to the channels we use, avoid switching mid conversation (i.e. moving from email to text), and we should avoid using them as an excuse for not communicating. You can read his piece here, and I think we all should be writing our own manifesto for communicating in the modern world, and agree in our teams how we do this. I was about to post a reply, when I realised that what he was really saying was pick up the phone, so I did, and we met up a couple of days later and had an inspired hour together.
What I realised is that I often use email, or LinkedIn messaging, or any other channel, to avoid communicating for real. It’s a way of faking communication when you are busy, and the benefits I am getting from picking the phone up are endless.
I picked up the phone to call my old pal Barry, who has just returned from the Tai Chi World Championship Taiwan with 7 Gold medals , and the conversation that ensued was brilliant. He’s doing some amazing work with families and martial arts, to teach grace and balance, and two way communication, and he ended up agreeing to come and show the kids at school his gold medals, something that a Facebook post would never have realised.
On Tuesday, as I walked through the woods, I reflected on whether I should really pursue speaking to an ex-colleague / participant whose profile had jumped out at me a few weeks earlier and prompted me to connect. After 3 or 4 aborted scheduled calls, was it worth it?
Definitely, it turned out. If I never speak to Vikki again, the knowledge that she has turned her life on its head, and is now turning others lives around through SSH will inspire me way beyond our conversation. SSH is creating remarkable experiences for women through transformational retreats, and I was tempted towards gender re-assignment when she described the process.
Finally on Wednesday Andrea Berkeley, who taught me English A level, was teaching me again. It was quite surreal seeing her some 30 years on from our last formal lesson, but it was good to know she could still get me thinking (this time about how a Head Teacher and Governing body could best communicate). The crux of Andrea lesson was the same as Adams, its easy to allow the pace of communication to blur what is really needing to be said. Its easy to let assumption, and suggestion create confusion and misunderstanding, so clarity and purpose should be at the heart of all good communication.
I read in the “Eton”, the daily news sheet they send home from school, that they introduced a lesson this week on ancient mythical stories by playing Chinese Whispers. It seemed a bold step, especially when we have members of our community who do believe that the stories we have handed down have a literal truth, but I see how it enabled the kids to see how stories can change in the telling. Then later that day, in a scene I wont identify, I heard a group of adults having played it themselves in the playground, pretending that they could talk about a fairytale like it was non-fiction.
My conclusion is that the missing link on much communication today is positive intention. Communication with intention, intention to connect, intention to teach, intention to listen, can make a real difference. Communication that is pre-populated to appear on your screen, buffered by apps and networks that exist primarily to re-balance our hectic lives, runs the risk of saying nothing.
Pick up the phone this week. Sit down with a friend. Write a letter to a pal. And do it with a positive intention.
Connection and intention makes communication real. And real communication creates magic.