by Steve Adubato, PhD
Two weeks ago, I featured New Jersey Secretary of State Buster Soaries and talked about his ability to communicate and connect with his audience through a sense of passion and honesty that is rarely seen on the speaking circuit. I asked readers to tell me why so many professionals seem to have lost the ability to communicate with passion and honesty. As usual, the responses were varied.
Rich Biddulph of Central Jersey writes, "Many entering the work force out of college are informed of the age-old axiom that you cannot mix work with religion, politics, family, etc. Yet, these are the topics/subjects most people are passionate about and willing to speak freely and honestly about….This has resulted in the suppression of passionate, 'here's how I feel' discussions at work. Another factor that contributes to the lack of being passionate in the workplace is the perception that leaders/managers should not be passionate and must never show that they are vulnerable. A leader must 'ALWAYS' be firm and under control and a way to show this is to always be objective and well thought out. (i.e., Never approach a situation from the heart…)"
Great stuff Rich. However, being passionate and honest in how you communicate doesn't have to be mutually exclusive with being a clear, logical thinker.
Cynthia Newman, who has been a social worker for 22 years, says "I have made honesty and passion a priority in my life but I think others, especially in the work world, think I am just plain nuts…I think most people don't really see their jobs/careers/vocations as that rewarding or creative. They live, at least their work lives, in black and white. After 22 years in social work, working with children with disabilities and their families, I live in a world of psychedelic color…I am not afraid to stand up for what I believe in…I think a lot of people, maybe just don't care anymore, or don't think that anything different can happen or have just lost their idealism…I have always felt that there will always be good jobs for good people…at least I hope that is true."
Cynthia, from the way you describe what you do and how you see yourself as a communicator, the world would be a better place if there were more people like you.
I received an out of state letter from Mitch Erickson who is the director of a laboratory in New York. "In my laboratory we communicate on a scientific level, but tend to do so poorly-both to peers and to non- or semi-technical sponsors, managers, etc. Scientists tend to be very high on the honesty scale and very low on the passion scale. One thought on your questions of why we as professionals can't communicate with passion and honesty-we get lost in the details and can't cut to the heart of the matter, so our stories become tedious and "shaggy-doggish." One way I fight the issue is with the following essential elements of a scientific presentation: What is it? So What? Who cares? What's in it for me (the audience)? Isn't Dr. XYZ already doing it? I am continually amazed at how many presentations describe how much better 'it' is, how much money will be saved by using 'it' etc., but never state what 'it' is..."
Mitch, it's not just scientists in a lab. Weak, lazy and downright poor communication skills are prevalent among doctors, lawyers, business executives and teachers. Great to get a New Yorkers perspective.
Next week, this column will explore the characteristics of a great leader. In preparation, I'd love to hear from you. Write to me to complete the following statement: A great leader is…" Looking forward to hearing from you.