Updated: Feb 21, 2020
Scenario One: 14 kids, ages ranging between 8-10 years old, were running around the football field. In theory, they were playing football. Their coach occasionally voiced his displeasure by throwing his clipboard and screaming.
Scenario Two: A man sits across from a woman, angrily denying her definition of sexual harassment. They are peers, and while the woman isn’t the one who felt sexually harassed, she feels it was her duty to explain to her co-worker how she feels he has violated company policy.
Scenario Three: A scientist makes what he feels is an interesting discovery. He’s found a correlation between two existing previously unrelated studies that may have tremendous benefit for the Parkinson’s community he serves. While he is gifted analytically and in his ability to analyze research, he is much less certain of his ability to run his own study - and far too proud to admit he may need help. The insight goes into his file drawer, never to be seen again.
What do all these scenarios have in common? Communication.
We often take it for granted because, by and large, people think they are relatively effective communicators. It’s everyone else who makes them angry…
A dash of humility and an ounce of self-awareness go a long way to helping us all understand how, even those of us who teach communications, are often off the mark when it comes to sending and receiving - regardless whether it’s a flag football game, corporate meeting or scientific discovery.
So what’s the big deal? We’re human. It happens, right?
Yes, and…(raise your hand then continue if that sounds familiar). If it doesn’t, I suggest you click and read this before advancing.
We can do better - and, believe it or not, it can be fun. I’ve had the benefit in the past week of dealing with all these scenarios and, in each one, offering improvisation as an ointment to the angry wound of miscommunication. Don’t get me wrong - it’s no magic pill. You don’t just say “yes, and” to make the world sip a Coke with you. However, improv is a tool - a powerful one for everyone who wants to be consciously engaged in improving their communication.
Having Parkinson’s doesn’t make you Parkinson’s. You’re still a person first. And all people, especially in our society, are expected to communicate. Whether it’s with a screaming coach, a young player who needs consoling and confidence, an angry co-worker who needs space to deflate or a scientist a team to help her know that she’s on a great path and they’ll do the heavy lifting together, communicating is king.
I’m happy to report after one week of my PhD program that a large part of my studies are going to be focused on clarifying and helping to share the research that has and is being done. Taking the time to share the new info in a way that makes sense to the sender matters. Because the best info, now more than ever in our information age, is for everyone.