the most critical element of effective communication is authenticity

photo by John Akerman

Typically when I think of my gifts, or how I define myself in terms of “This is who I am,” I say something like: “I guess I’m an observer, really, someone who writes about life as it falls into place around me. Sometimes that involves taking photographs too; pictures often help me to tell the story.”

But I also really enjoy using music to communicate. I honestly don’t think I sing all that well, but I’m a halfway decent guitar player, and my voice can hold a tune. So – and because I have a story to share plus I’m comfortable in front of a crowd – I always say “Yes” when I’m asked to sing something in church Sunday morning.

 Communicating something real:

I don’t think of it as performing so much as communicating. You can be the most musically gifted person in the world, but if you don’t communicate something real then even a great song is little more than harmonically pleasing noise. But if your music – or any medium you choose to share your story – comes from your heart then people are more wiling to listen, and to receive.

I believe the most critical element of effective communication is authenticity. Authenticity signals to people that you believe in the story you are telling, that you are emotionally accessible, and that what you have to share is worth their emotional investment too.

1-39878913_10155607278017611_3700746351416442880_nI have observed this when I write, when I speak, and when I use music to express myself. This is especially true of preaching, and I believe it is the reason Rebekah is so effective in the pulpit. It’s her authenticity, the absolute honesty of her presentation, the emotional resonance of someone telling the truth, of opening their heart with no reservation and inviting the listener into that sacred space.

Truth is always more compelling:

It’s like one of the stories I often use when I travel to speak. The scene is a London street some year between the world wars. It’s a Sunday morning and a man walks out of his hotel to see crowds of people streaming in the same direction. Among them he recognizes Bertrand Russell, a well-known atheist. “Where is everyone going?” the man inquires. “To church!” Russell exclaims. “But I did not think you accepted this message?” the man then responds. “I do not,” Russell replies; “but the man who is speaking this morning believes with such passion that I am compelled to listen.”

There is something about an authentic story, told honestly, that reaches into the human soul in ways mere eloquence, or reason, or polish cannot.

photo by John Akerman

So I stood in front of a microphone with my guitar and I offered a simple retelling of the Christmas story set down by Christina Rossetti when she penned In the Bleak Midwinter. I used Rossetti’s words, the melody written by Gustav Holst, the guitar arrangement crafted by James Taylor, and the emotion of a simple faith that is unquestionably real.

Here is a rough rendering of the song (recorded a moment ago) if you want to get an idea. YouTube Link.

What I want more than anything is to communicate effectively during 2020, sharing the hope, the promise, the grace, the mercy, and the love that is always possible when we live in the light.

“What then can I give him, empty as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb. If I were a wise man, i would know my part. What then can I give him? I must give my heart.”

Peace and more peace – DEREK


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