On September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush faced the most difficult task of his presidency. As a public figure not known to be a compelling or charismatic speaker, he had to talk directly to the American people about the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon acts that were beyond words, beyond description, and beyond comprehension. What could he say to address our fears and bolster our spirits? After much soul searching, he chose to leave unspoken the political jargon and the facts and figures of central intelligence. Instead, he offered America a glimpse of his own feelings and emotions his own sense of patriotism. On that day, and for weeks and months after, President Bush was more than simply a politician. He was a compassionate and caring leader to the thousands of grieving families of those who had died. And his words continued to be a steady and calming presence in the midst of horror and devastation for all of us. You can't do that without speaking from a highly personal and human perspective. You can't do that without speaking from the heart.
This compelling example and my own experience as a state legislator, broadcaster, motivational speaker, and university professor have taught me invaluable lessons about the power of honest communication. Speak from the Heart shares these lessons and introduces a new way of communicating and connecting with others. You will learn that being a truly great communicator is not about simply being articulate. It is not about being a "good talker." It is not about fancy visuals and PowerPoint presentations that are nothing more than data dumps. It's about feelings, and human connection, and engagement, and empathy. It's not about who has the most facts, figures, and technical wizardry. It's about who can make an audience care about the message and who can find the words that touch not only the intellect but also the heart.
The title of this book perfectly expresses what these pages boil down to. My premise is that too many of us don't understand how to communicate in ways that reach others on a personal human level. I believe that the way we have been taught to view communication is convoluted and often counterproductive. From elementary school on, we have been told that the purpose of communication is largely "to transmit information." What a narrow view! The problem with simply giving out information is that it is a one-way experience and not especially engaging. Effective communication means more than just sending out a message and hoping it is received. It means touching people, moving people, and connecting with people, be it one or one hundred. From the U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell and former Dodger Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda to lesser known but no less dynamic communicators, this book explores the essence of being real with yourself and with your audience.
This book is for all those who were taught to give book reports as little kids by reading verbatim from a piece of paper to make sure all the material was covered. It's for those of us who were forced to listen to unimaginative college professors who lectured from the same tired notes year after year without passion or enthusiasm, much less with eye contact. It is also for the PTA president, community activist, or toast giver who is deathly afraid to speak in public because he or she lacks the tools, and therefore the confidence, to do it well.
Beyond public speaking, this book attempts to understand what it takes to engage in a meaningful conversation. Small talk can pay big dividends. Together, we will explore the power of what we don't say and also how body language and nonverbal cues can either support or contradict our words. We will delve into how to make a positive first impression while still being true to yourself and not being a "phony." We'll consider what it takes to be a truly great and caring listener. We'll discuss the importance of empathy and compassion and of improving our relationship with family, friends, and colleagues.
This book is especially relevant to all those who lead or are part of a team. I am fascinated by teamwork and the communication skills required to keep a group of unique personalities focused on a single goal. To show that there is no one "correct" way to lead a team, I have profiled numerous leaders with differing styles, from the quiet, calm, and supportive Yankee manager Joe Torre, to an intense, in-your-face CEO who believes you need to "kick some ass" to get your people to respond. I have also shared my own experiences as a flawed but always ready-to-learn leader, who believes that what it often comes down to is the ability to communicate compassion, caring, and confidence to those who are willing to stand beside you. These teamwork tools and tips are no less relevant to a family team of five than to a corporate team of five thousand.
No book about communication would be complete without addressing the influence of information technology. If you use computers, e-mail, PowerPoint, cell phones, faxes, or beepers, I'll show you why, as great as high-tech tools can be, you must avoid the temptation to hide behind them or let them control you or your message. It's crucial to remember that the message is always in you not in the equipment. In a world dominated by instant and constant high-tech communication, keeping the human touch is more important than ever.
We will also explore the world of gender communication, drawing on the expertise and wisdom of gender experts Dr. Patricia Kuchon and Dr. King Mott, as well as a group of men and women, including some of my closest friends and family, who were willing to share their feelings, fears, and confusion about communicating with the opposite sex.
Ultimately, speaking from the heart comes down to being real and knowing yourself. Being a great communicator is not about copying someone else's style. It is about knowing what's in your heart and asking yourself what you truly believe, then having the courage, passion, and conviction to share those beliefs with others. How can you be yourself without knowing yourself? From Oprah and actor/entertainer Joe Piscopo to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anna Quindlen, the final chapter makes the case that speaking from the heart requires a level of honesty and introspection that many of us have not yet explored. It requires us to ask challenging questions. It is the answers to these questions that allow us a level of freedom and confidence that is amazingly liberating. I know because I've asked and answered some of these questions, and I know what it has done for me as a person and as a communicator.
Copyright © 2002 by Steve Adubato