Secret #5 – Communication is a Gift

It is my sincere belief that communication, at its best, is an act of generosity.

I imagine that you have been taken by surprise by a speaker’s ability to bring a dry topic to life and make it interesting. So, what’s going on here? How is it that some people can make a subject, anticipated to be dull, riveting, where others choke the life out of one we expect to be interesting? In this section, I’ll talk about what I’ve found to be a very important aspect of it: Generosity.

You give a talk. You give a presentation. Generosity. When you approach communication as something that you’re giving to others, as opposed to something to which you are being subjected, interesting things start to happen.

Giving is an action that, to do well, requires strategy and thought – (what brings value to the listener, and how can I deliver it effectively?) – two things that, in the doing, leave little room for other energy-suckers like self-consciousness. The attention of the giver is fixed on their goal: giving something of value. Once connected in this way, other issues my clients struggle with – anxiety, problems with speed, pausing, pacing and intonation, as well as place holders (like “uhms”) – diminish automatically.

It is also far more interesting to listen to someone in the act of doing something, than it is just hearing them talk. Yes, when we speak we are talking, but to what end? If it is merely to say aloud words printed on a page, then the words can come out as flat as the page they are written on. When, however, the goal of each speaking opportunity is put in active terms and involves clear steps to achieve a benefit to the those listening, the speaking style naturally becomes more engaging to both the speaker and the listener. Actors use a related approach to keep their performances fresh and alive for each show.

You: Get real, Stephanie. Plays and films are written about entertaining things we all find interesting. I have to head a meeting on the “Decreasing Utilization of the Twist Tie!”

Me: Have you seen any of the “Deuce Bigalow” movies?

You: Very funny. If you need me, I’ll have my head in the oven…

Seriously, do not for a minute believe that every performance in a play or film is one the actor loves or feels passionate about giving at first. When in less-than-desirable projects, good actors must find ways to jump in and try to love it, if only for the duration of the run. If we look deeply enough, we can make our topic interesting to ourselves, and love it enough to convey it with generosity and benefit to our listener.

You: Two words: Twist ties!

Would it help you to know that for several years I toured the country giving six-hour presentations to (sometimes hostile) audiences about the statutory requirements and penalties associated with notary law? Take your time and re-read that last sentence. It was hard work trying to be generous with this material and make it meaningful to others. But I’ll tell you something: It was so gratifying to hear these bleary-eyed attendees say they were pleasantly surprised by what they’d learned, that those hours went by pretty quickly, and that they even enjoyed themselves. I’m serious. I have reviews to prove it. I did it. You can, too.

This secret is one of my favorites – it taps into the best part of ourselves. I find we are at their best when acting in a giving spirit. I know I am. We also find that we, as givers, actually enjoy the experience.

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