In normal times, my pal and colleague, the communication consultant Sharon McIntosh and I get together at a restaurant with a bar, or a bar with a restaurant, about four times a year.
We start early, and we usually close the place, trying and usually failing to get through an agenda that one of us has scrawled on a piece of paper, or two agendas that both of us have scrawled on two. Subjects that have been bugging us—usually, about the central subject of our lives, communication.
Well, we got into it the other day in public—on the popular employee communication podcast she shares with her colleague Sharon Phillips, EE Voice. Sharon Phillips was on vacation, so it was just Murr and Mac. Among other things, she asked me about a notion of mine about why communication is always “scary,” as I explained in my book:
I dread a lunch with someone I don’t know. I usually arrive thirty minutes early: ten to be safe, plus twenty more to psych myself up in the parking lot. And looking at our menus and deciding what we want—this is what Emily Dickinson would call the “Hour of Lead.”
I dread almost all telephone conversations. How many times have I readied myself for a big call—even one that could offer a real opportunity if it goes well—and as the phone rings, I find myself hoping Oprah won’t pick up after all and I can just go back to my regular day.
That’s because I dread communication.
I dread it like I dread a long run in January, because of the energy I know it will demand and the pain it will entail.
I dread it because at least half of it is out of my control, which means all of it is out of my control.
I dread it because it happens so fast, and because it can get out of hand and it can go all the way bad.
I dread it because it involves electrical impulses and rhythm and bodily fluids and God knows what else.
I dread it because it is unpredictable—like a big argument with your spouse . . . or sex with not-your-spouse . . . or opening the thick envelope . . . or hearing the test results . . . or mysterious feet on the stairs . . . or death itself.
I dread it because it is communication—and I love it because it is communication. But if it’s not a little scary, it’s not communication.
In our conversation, I said that professional communicators, who are always talking about “strategic communication”—which implies that if you say this, you’ll get that result—have forgotten the meaning of the word “communication.”
And so on, and so forth.
Oh, just listen to the podcast, which dropped this morning. It’s the closest you’ll come to hanging with Mac and Murr at the bar next time—and maybe, the closest you’ll want to.