I’ve spent my career practicing, writing, teaching and speaking about “Communication with a big C.” You know, things like communication strategy and tactical skills, how to develop plans, how to carry them out with excellence, and how to measure the impact of it all.
But I’m coming to realize that what really matters — in business and in life — is “communication with a small c.” That would include the everyday conversations we have with our bosses, co-workers, friends and family. Without communication with a small c, Communication with a big C is meaningless.
If I had my way, I would spend more time consulting, writing, teaching and speaking about communication with a small c. Inexplicably, there seems to be little demand for such services.
A lot of things in my personal life, and one in particular, have caused me to realize communication with a small c is where my real passion lies and where the greatest opportunity exists.
My mother is seriously ill. This week she entered hospice care. We don’t know how much longer she’ll be with us. It could be six days, six weeks or six months. One thing I do know is that my mother has been drifting away for several years. That is the nature of Alzheimer’s disease. I know exactly what Ronald Reagan meant when he called it “the long goodbye.”
Communication with my mother is difficult. She can no longer piece together the words to make a coherent sentence. For a while, she knew exactly what she wanted to say, but she couldn’t say it. Now, I believe the disease is beginning to rob her of the ability to know what she wants to say.
We used to spend hours sharing the stories of our lives with each other. Now our conversations are brief and shallow. I can tell her I love her, but the sweetness of those words no longer lingers in her mind.
What a gift it is to communicate with the people who are important to us. Not just our parents, but our spouses or significant others, our children, the people in our office, the people with whom we do business. Yet we often take the gift for granted.
It amazes me how many of us shut ourselves down. We’re our own worst enemies when it comes to communication with a small c. How easy should it be to say:
- I love you.
- You are important to me.
- I’m proud of you.
- I’m sorry. Please forgive me.
- I want to tell you what’s on my mind.
- Tell me what’s on your mind.
- Let’s sit down and work this thing out.
- Let me make sure I understand what you’re saying.
But our stubborn internal editors stop those words before we give life to them. They never make it to the ears of the people who need to hear them. And if we’re on the receiving end of those words, those same internal editors stop them before they enter our minds, much less our hearts and souls.
Imagine the incredible difference it would make — in homes and workplaces — if people rediscovered how to communicate with a small c.
As it is, though, companies will continue to hire consultants like me to strategize, to advise them about the most effective communication vehicles, to develop and broadcast content, and to measure what they’re doing, all the while ignoring the powerful thing that is right under their noses — raw, organic, simple communication between and among people.
Filed under: Back to the Basics, Lessons From Life Tagged: | "the long goodbye", Alzheimer's disease, communication, content, conversations, hospice, measurement, organic communication, personal communication, Ronald Reagan, strategy, tactics, workplace communication