Here in the States, the Democratic presidential race is well underway, and the TV debates are a good lens for looking afresh at the nature of communication.
Politics is steeped in what I call conditional communication. The condition – the tacit agreement – in place is very clear, and we all subscribe to it. If I’m the candidate, I am going to speak so that you vote for me. Whatever it takes to get that vote, that’s who I’ll be for you. I’m not going to tell you my truth; I am not going to speak from my heart. I am going to try and look genuine, of course, because I know that you know authenticity is important. But it will be a designed authenticity, a presentation of it. I’ll be looking for every opportunity to get my soundbite out there, or my tagline, or my carefully rehearsed story. One of the two candidates from Colorado, John Hickenlooper, is an example of this. Whenever I heard him speak in his previous incarnations – Mayor of Denver, Governor of Colorado and, most importantly, founder of the Wynkoop brewery – he always used to show up as a nice, normal guy. Now he sounds like a product of his professional speaker coach and media team. And like many in his field, it’s creepy.
So there is a cost to conditional communication: the best of you disappears. I believe we pay our politicians to make that deal so that we don’t have to.
Politics: ‘Poli’ a Latin word meaning ‘many’
and ‘tics’ meaning ‘bloodsucking creatures.’
Politicians are an easy target, but, just as having a terrible boss at least shows us what not to do when we get to be one, so we can use times like these to reflect on our own communication as parents, spouses, citizens or leaders.
I work with people on their Unconditional Communication, which shows up when they are fully present, and unmistakably themselves. It’s incredibly powerful. Their audiences love it, because it is precisely what their audiences are looking for. Human beings crave authentic connection; we can sense it, we can feel it. We know what is real, and we know what is false. When we, as audiences for communication, don’t need to do all the work of sifting through the false – the half-truths, the misdirection, the hidden motives, the managed and approved official statements – we can relax and be more of ourselves too. And that only expands the experience of connection and trust.
One of the things that makes Unconditional Communication so effective is that it stands out in a world of conditionality.