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Those who can't, communicate

Communications is not for everyone. I know that's not the most profound statement you've read today, but it is one of those things that needs to be said more often than it is. Communicating is difficult, challenging in a way that many people cannot grasp. It's not language, it's not grammar, it's not even verbalizing important thoughts. It's about being able to listen, to hear and understand (at the same time) what someone is trying to express and then, and this is the important part, take that expression and transmit it to more people. You as the communicator take that thought, the one someone felt was important enough to communicate to you, and expand on it, spread it around, make it known to more people.

That, in a nutshell, is what the function of a communicator really is. Notice I didn't say their job. It's not their job. The communicators job could be any of a vast number of things. Communication may not even appear in their job responsibilities, on their CV, or come up in a performance review. But it could be an essential ingredient nonetheless.

How do you know when someone's job has communication as a vital component? When they aren't able to communicate. In my brief career, I've had the pleasure of working with some of the most gifted communicators I can think of, people I've learned from and wish I could continue to learn from. I've also had the unfortunate experience of working with a sampling of the worlds most pitiful communicators. These are people who not only have a career centered around communications, they are so unable to perform that function, it boggles the mind that they draw pay every week.

And I have to sit back, remove myself from the frustration of the situation, and wonder: how does someone unable to communicate, someone unable to listen and project the message, continue? I don't know the answer, and it frustrates me. I have a handful of standard reasons for maintaining one's career in the absence of talent, but nothing concrete. I can't imagine those I trust in my work—because, what else is work but trust of those you consider more knowledgeable than you—I can't imagine them withholding a shortcoming from me. How can I improve if they don't tell me?

But it must be this way for many communicators. They must muddle through the message they've been trusted with because they don't know any better. They've never been given the guidance they need because their work, their product, is not viewed by anyone with perspective. They are, for all intents and purposes, casting their voice into the echo chamber. It pains me, as a communicator, to see this continue and, as a professional, it pains me to be reminded of the stifling politics and drudgery around me. I am blessed with a team that is not only motivated, but overly capable—a potent combination, to say the least.

If only it were that way in many more places.


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