Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reflections on Communication's Role in Our Happiness

Hey folks! It's been a while since I've had the time to write. Between the book (Public Speaking in the Semiosphere: Creating a Meaningful Experience for Your Audience ), the consulting through Semiosphere Consulting, speaking engagements with nice people like the Garden State Journalists Association and my full-time gig at Brookdale Community College, 2015 has been busy to say the least.

Yet as we say goodbye to another year and prepare to hit the ground running in 2016, this is an ideal time to pause and take a few minutes to reflect and reconnect. More often than not I use this space to talk about public speaking. Today though, I want to talk about communication at a different level. Basically I want to talk about life and the role communication plays in my own happiness, by looking at a few examples of communication choices that have made a difference for me.

I find my life filled with more blessings than I probably deserve and want to share some of them with you, with the hope that it might enrich your life.

Many of the great blessings in my life are from my students. We have an interesting relationship based on listening. At it's best, they listen to me, to hear what I have to share, give it meaning within the context of their own lives, and judge it's relevancy and usefulness. I on the other hand listen to their speeches, try to interpret what they mean, and judge their effectiveness as public speakers. I assess not only their delivery, but the substance of their ideas, and the manner in which they have encoded them for the listener. Their organizational strategies, language choices, and visual aids all come under scrutiny with the hope of helping them become more effective communicators.

And through their degree of success, I evaluate my own teaching methods to see what is working and what is not. All in all it is a mutually creative process designed to help each other communicate better. As such it is inherently enjoyable. Challenging? Oh yes! Both for the students and myself. We push each other to be better so that we will be more successful in the future. And therein lies the beauty of the process. Our motivation--mine anyway--is to help. I find when we frame our motivation as helping, it changes everything and becomes easier.

Another of the great blessings in my life is my relationship with my girlfriend. It's kind of a wonderful story. We were friends in grad school and were very fond of each other. Eventually we dated, but I had a significant problem with alcohol back then and, wisely, she chose to marry another man. We kept in touch, seeing each other annually at the National Communication Association convention, and occasional phone calls. She informed me last year that she was going through a divorce after 20+ years of marriage and through Facebook I tried to lend my support during what was a very difficult time for her. We planned a visit and things just seemed to click for us. Now sober, I had a whole new appreciation of this wonderful woman and thankfully she once again saw the good in me, and love blossomed.

It was our choice to stay in touch that made it all possible. Through maybe a half dozen phone calls over 20 years, our commitment to meeting for a meal at the convention each year, and a Facebook friend request, we maintained a relationship . During that time neither of us had even the faintest notion of a reconciliation. She was, after all, happily married. It was simply two old friends making a point to keep in touch over the years. This was something I have not always done with many friends, but now it is so easy to stay connected through Facebook and the various social media out there.

I guess what I am trying to say is that it is so important to stay in touch even occasionally with old friends, colleagues, and clients. We never know what the future may bring and with each person we encounter comes the potential for that special happiness only another human being can provide.

Finally, I heard from several former students over the holidays and was so pleased to hear how well they were doing. Now lawyers, executives, teachers, and performers I know in my heart that I played some small role in their success. Of course the majority of credit goes to the students and their parents, but I know that the skills they learned and the confidence they gained under my tutelage has served them well on their path to their current achievements. I take tremendous satisfaction in that and am grateful to have had the opportunity for a career in service to others.

And the lesson here is to realize that each moment we spend with others has the potential to influence them in a positive way. From the smallest act of kindness that helps them get through a rough day, to the sometimes tough-love of honest feedback. We are helping them on their path to tomorrow. The tone we set, the knowledge we share, the love we empower them with, all create the context of their life choices going forward.

So our communication choices really do matter. Each moment of our lives we make choices as to how we are going to perceive the the situation, and how we are going to express ourselves in response to it. And the choices we make today will create the tomorrow we find ourselves in.

As we turn the page on 2015, let us all resolve to make choices in 2016 that will lead to happiness and a sense of satisfaction in our personal and professional lives. When in doubt, choose to be supportive, loving, compassionate, and forgiving. We will certainly reap the rewards we sow through our communication choices. Happy New Year to everyone!

That's all for today. Be well and speak well. And as always, thank you for reading!