Communicating As Beautifully As Our Dreams

Steve Roberts black ink drawing: holiday tree ballerina
It’s deliciously rare, so a bit magical, when mind and heart click in lovely synchrony and enrich our lives with a spark of exceptional communication.  For me, recently, it was the name of a company and what we marketing goons call a positioning statement, that little phrase or tag line about an enterprise that, ideally, captures its essence––the benefit it promises.

Homeboy Industries
Nothing stops a bullet like a job

To convey so much so simply is no small accomplishment for any of us.  In the world of commerce, such clarity serves every person who contributes to an institution’s well-being by creating an inspiring, commonly-held understanding of “what we’re all about.”  Imagine the health of Homeboy Industries if every aspect of its life is handled with such consideration.

The most effective communication meets at least four criteria.  We find it arresting (we can’t not pay attention), emotionally powerful (preferably positive), meaningful and memorable.  It engenders that rarest of experiences: the feeling of time well spent, even if we choose not to accept what’s being offered––a product, a service, an idea…. 

My favorite book title is Get Your Tongue Out of My Mouth, I’m Kissing You Goodbye.  There’s a laugh in my voice every time I say it.  It’s certainly arresting, memorable and emotionally powerful (just how positive might be questioned), but I don’t own the book, I can’t imagine buying it, and I doubt I’ll ever read it.  Meaning-wise, for me, the title satisfies no need.

Here’s an exception to the rule.  Believe it or not, in the U.S. there are a number of Thai restaurants (one of them here in Vermont) named––I kid you not––Thai Tanic.  You’d think that moniker, while arresting and memorable, would be a liability when it came to inspiring confidence.  Not necessarily it turns out, especially in the food biz.  Your joint can be called “Great Shit!” and so long as that’s what customers exclaim about your culinary wizardry (and the community you operate in includes a certain sense of humor), you’ll not want for patrons.  

Of course a wonderful name and motto mean little if we can’t deliver on the promise they make.  The cliché goes: good communication only makes a bad product fail quicker. 

But that’s seldom the problem for most of us.  More common is the challenge of communicating in a manner that is equal to our noble aspirations.  Elmer Fudd may sing the national anthem, but his rendition probably won’t stir your pride in America the way Aretha Franklin’s will. 

We can all be Aretha in our own way.  The most effective communication, the stuff that tingles heart and mind, originates not with words or images or music, and definitely not with school, but from that inner awareness of just how sacred our life is, how precious our moments.  From there it’s a short step to trying to express that awareness as best we can––whether we’re selling soup, or a cease-fire.


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