January 21, 2018

We want a thriller not a thesis

Members of an audienceLike it or not, we find it hard to engage with dry, factual, objective communication. We need the information, of course, but nevertheless we find a “thesis” hard to access and to assimilate.

Instead, even though we know we maybe shouldn’t, we find it easier to connect with something exciting, something that touches us emotionally, something vivid. We’re captivated by the story and the drama. We hear the message within—and what’s more we remember it.

There’s a time and a place for rigorously argued, dispassionate material, and there’s a time and a place for emotional intensity.

Can we deliver both, as the occasion requires?

If we want to move people, there’s no getting away from it…

We need a thriller not a thesis.

If in doubt, communicate

Three senior managers talkingSometimes we wonder whether we should say something or not, probably because it’s sensitive in some way.

I’ve always reckoned that if we’re unsure whether to take a particular action or not, we should do the positive thing i.e. take the option that is active rather than passive. At least that way we’ll learn something even if the action doesn’t turn out that well, whereas if we don’t do anything, we’ll learn nothing. Over time that attitude has paid off, I would say.

Similarly, then…

If we’re unsure about speaking (or writing) to someone about something—if the decision is finely balanced, that is—we should go ahead, with the best skill and tact we can muster and if it seems the right time. At least then we move things on, even if the road is bumpy.

If in doubt, communicate.

We don’t challenge what we say ourselves

Three managersWe don’t challenge what we say ourselves. (Not unless we’re like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings anyway.)

OK, we might be conflicted about some subject of concern to us, and have some inner tension around that, but on the whole, we don’t reject the things we say. We don’t argue with ourselves.

And other people are just like that too. They don’t reject what they say either.


It helps a lot to get other people to articulate an issue and possible approaches to solving it. Then they’re comfortable with what’s said. They said it themselves, after all. And they might even take action.

The way to get the answer to come from them is by asking questions (open questions), sort of coaching the other person to a co-created outcome.

What’s your way of guiding someone to a solution you can support? Is that a style you can choose to adopt when you want to?

Or do you just flat out tell them your view and hope for the best? That might be seem to be quicker and take less patience. But it might not work at all. And even if it does, it leaves you with the job of supplying all the drive and direction.

Better to get it to come from them.

The head or the heart, where do you start?

Three people in a meeting, two shaking handsProgress on anything challenging typically needs a balance of head and heart perspectives; some emotional intelligence alongside the logic and rationale of the numbers and the processes. Neither on their own will be sufficient.

But where to start? Where to meet the other people involved?

With the head stuff, or the heart stuff?

With professional and business people brought up to “use their heads,” it often seems to make sense to meet them in that left-brain place that is so familiar, and then lead them to an emotional perspective once a level of trust is established.

With other individuals, less conditioned to be “professional”, beginning right from the heart might well work better. Or maybe that’s better in every case.

Does it depend on the context? The same individual in different circumstances might respond differently.

Perhaps the key is to connect with the person, one way or another, starting where they’re most comfortable, and then lead them to the other.

What do you think? Where do you begin—in your head or in your heart? It makes a difference.

Sometimes words get in the way

Sun and treesWe’re in almost complete silence. The background noise level is very low. We hear a little noise from outside, but not much. The winter sun streams in from the large windows. Everyone is aware of everyone else. Nothing is said. Nothing needs to be said. Connections are made in other ways: By the sharing of an experience, by the sharing of a space, by the sharing of energy. Aspects of personal presence are noticed and acknowledged. Individuals are honored and respected. Much is communicated without words being said. Whether people knew each other beforehand or not makes little difference.


I learned a long time ago that the spoken word is often rather unimportant in face-to-face communication. Tone of voice is more important, and more important than that is what is said by our bodies and our energy.

But now I would go further…

Sometimes the spoken word actually gets in the way, and we’re better to leave it out altogether. Our attempts to articulate what we see, feel and hear are often inadequate and we do better just to show these things. Attempts at verbal communication can distract both us and the other person from what really needs to pass between us.

Sometimes it’s better not to speak at all and leave the space to other forms of communication.

Relief from information overload

Exhausted computer userThe email Inbox just gets bigger. The paper in-tray still stacks up dauntingly too. And that’s not to mention all the other channels: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Skype text chat, SMS messages on mobile/cell phones, and StumbleUpon to mention only some. Oh I nearly forgot Google+. And then there’s Facebook’s LinkedIn “me too”, otherwise known as Branchout. Ever feel you’re caught in the middle of a communication arms race?

So what’s to do?

The net effect of all this communication could be the well-known phrase “information overload,” but does that description really help us? After all, the information exists whether we chose to look at it or not. How much attention do we pay to a piece of low value information that happens to be on our computer screen versus a piece of high value information that isn’t in front of us at all?

Perhaps we need to take charge of our attention and decide where to direct our interest.

Of course…

We can learn various practical techniques for processing information quickly, and they’re very valuable too. Will we ever outrun the flood though?

There’s another way…

Information flow is a manifestation of a relationship of some kind. Take that relationship to a deeper, more trusting, more profound level and we won’t need to handle so much data. The details become unimportant and fall into place much more easily – or can be set aside altogether. Head in the opposite direction away from trust, and you’ll need every information-handling trick you can find.

How to take a relationship deeper to a more profound level?

Find out what truly matters to the other person or organization and cherish that sincerely.

Too simple? Maybe not.