Friday, January 30, 2009


One time during a leadership retreat I berated the group for suggesting the word ‘hope’ be integrated in the message we were sending to our employees that year. I firmly asserted that ‘hope’ was not a strategy and that it inspired no one.

Enter Barack Obama.

President Obama may be the best straight out communicator, we the public, have seen in a long time. Much effort will be given to dissect his ability in this area and even more time will be spent comparing him to MLK, the Kennedys, Cicero and Ronald Reagan among others.

So what does my aversion to hope as a strategy have to do with Barack Obama’s rhetoric skills you ask? I HOPE that instead of revering him for his communication prowess that the young and old will strive to do something about their own skill set. I am buoyed by the masses waking up the morning after the inauguration with good intentions of volunteering, giving money and becoming community activists. However, those same people still need to get jobs, make friends, find/keep mates, raise children, influence coworkers, acquire bank loans and so on and so on and so on.

Barack Obama is smart, kind, devoted, driven, and a host of other positive adjectives that could describe countless other people in this country. Why does he stand out above so many others? Because he has the ability to demonstrate those qualities to the people around him. Because he can COMMUNICATE.

I HOPE that after stopping to feed the dogs at the no kill shelter, dropping off coats for the kids who can’t keep warm, feeding the homeless and marching for justice that people stop long enough to understand that if they do all that AND learn how to interact with others there would be no place they could not take their lives.

Example: I know a woman who is in her mid 50s. She is just like you and me except for one thing. Eight out of ten topics that are brought up in conversation end up with her talking about her and the rest of us trying to find a way out of the room before we scream ‘this is not about you’. Someone may be telling her about a person they are having trouble with at work or a recent diagnosis of a serious disease. To make her way into the conversation, instead of showing empathy or asking questions, she goes back to herself.

When I was in the hospital…
When I worked with him…
When my mom had cancer…

Forget for a moment the why. We will leave that to the psychologists. If she would just pick up a book one day or take a class on interpersonal communication or have herself videotaped, she would be able to change a bad habit that is preventing people from wanting to spend time with her. This is only one small example of hundreds of possible communication blunders.

I hope, I hope, I hope that anyone who is having a difficult time in life right now takes all the advice they are getting from all the other sources and then looks hard at the way they are communicating with their friends, kids, colleagues, clients, customers, employees. I am confident there are changes to be made.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are most certainly right. I don't know anyone who can't improve their communication and Barack is certainly someone to aspire to in terms of being a good communicator!