Saturday, January 22, 2011

Communication And Empathy

Storytelling requires communication.  Good storytelling requires good communication.  Good communication allows the audience to think and feel the things you want them to. Communication, though, requires an understanding of your audience, and that requires empathy.

Empathy is being able to feel and understand the thoughts and emotions of others.  When you can sense that somebody is confused while you are talking, it will allow you to know to simplify your terminology and use some analogies to explain what you have covered in simpler means.

I love talking about technology (like computers) with people.  Sometimes, though, I realize that they have no idea what RAM is or what more of it will allow them to do.  To a person who knows and understands computers, it is knowledge so painfully well-known that it is incomprehensible that it would need to be defined.  But for me, I understand that all knowledge had to be gained, and that it can be explained to those who have not yet gained it, regardless of their age (there's plenty of shit I don't know, so who am I to judge).

I assumed that this was something that everybody could do.  Now I feel like I was wrong.  The skill of communication is special and relatively rare.  It is not, however, something you have to be born with.  Communication is a skill; it can be learned.

I know that I have learned a great deal about communication.  I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth.  It came from study, practice, and experience.  But every job I have had has been seriously helped by my ability to effectively communicate with a large breadth of people.

This makes me think about my college years.  The idea of the Professional Writing program at SUNY Cortland was: Whatever you do in life, you will have to write.  So learn how to write well, ya dummy.  (I may have modified the exact words over time.)

I have come to realize that writing is simply one form of communicating.  And although writing does have its own unique qualities, when we talk about writing, we are really talking about communicating (which includes other means, like talking).  Learn how to communicate well (and training yourself to empathize will help you do that even better), and the world will be your oyster.

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