Can’t We Just Talk?

– by Albert Berkshire

Conversation is dead. Communication is lost. Come innnnn Tokyo.

I know I won’t shock anyone with this revelation, but it is necessary to point out the obvious, lest a simple thought slip past our tweeting, posting, status updating, checking-in noses. You did look up from your smart phone to read this, n’est pas?

I’ve oft heard the expression, ‘Conversation is an art”. Agreeable, but certainly a lost art, as of these last few Facebook years. I would argue then that if conversation is, or sadly, was, an art, then it is less than emboldened to suggest ‘communication is a science’.

It saddens me that so few understand the value of conversation. Even in the communication industry – being that of a specific nature and not withstanding that we in every form of business must actually communicate with people, clients, and customers – we must use conversation to build a rapport. For it is the rapport that keeps us in tune with the true needs of our clientele. Communication is merely a tool we use to advance a relationship to the point of conversation.

I could tell you a few paddling stories where the waters were crystal clear and the lake trout were as long as my forearm, tell you about losing the trail in heavy fog enroute to the summit of Mt. Temple, make you shake your head with my many over the handlebars experiences while mountain biking, perhaps swimming along with a 100 year old giant sea turtle on the Great Barrier Reef, or invite you into my heart while I tell you about that one last run at Niseko-Grand Hirafu – when the snow was chest deep and the deciduous trees were perfectly spaced. Actually, that’s a story I would love for anyone to have experienced. That was a story of a romantic moment between me and Mother Nature. And on that day, I loved her like a muse. But that’s a story for another day, as are many.

These are all stories that come from my life. My life outside the confines of a studio/office. They are mine. I’ve shared them with some of my closest friends and many of my most valued clients. Clients with whom I have a wonderful rapport. But I tell these stores with words. Real words. Words that encompass the emotions I felt when I experienced these events, not the words of the science of communication. Those words, generally get checked at my door. Generally.

So this would be where I offend those who speak the science of communication. I realize, and respect, that many use these terms every day. It is business speak. I have one friend who launches these phrases with such confidence and prowess, you’d swear she was a walking-talking manual for inter-corporate communications. But she comes by it honestly and acknowledges it is a tool of her trade, and certainly not the 5:01pm-7:59am individual that is really her. Still, I find the flick of the switch a wee bit alarming, like a floodlight in the retina of reality.

So let’s review a few of these terms and phrases that have presided over the perversion of the science of communication and has thusly eroded the art of conversation.

Reach Out:  I’m sorry, did you mean “talk to someone”? Because if anyone reaches out to me, I’m probably going to, as first instinct, pull my arm away because I don’t like to be touched by strangers. Or is this an intervention and I’m going to be sent to “I don’t like to be touched” rehab? By reaching out, you are talking or emailing, or if you remember how, you are writing a letter to a person. Even if you “message” someone, you are still communicating with said person. So the whole term “reach out” seems a little pretentious.

Establish a Dialogue: I’m sorry, did you mean “talk to someone”? When establishing a dialogue, does one use a little drop-down box? As in “dialogue box”? You know, the little thing that drops down or opens on your computer screen to give you an option. (If you are a Windows user you see these 100 times a day. I’m a Mac Snob, so I get a steady allowance of three per week) Maybe that is the key, when you compose an email, maybe a little box could open giving you options that you can check:  “It appears you are attempting to establish a dialogue with an individual. Would you like help in presenting yourself as genuine, or fake?

Have a Conflab: WTF? Did you mean “talk to someone”? There is little I like less in this world than made up words. I have a sense of humour…but it has limits when it starts to bastardize the English language. Perhaps with the exception of “qualificant” –  which one hung over morning on a radio show many lifetimes ago had a nice ring to it, and we suspiciously understood what I was saying – made up words are ridiculous. Conflab this, Muchacho. Let’s have a “conversation”, if you remember how.

Offer Disclosure: Seriously? We’re deviating from the norm? Tres apropos! Did you mean “tell someone something”? Disclosure? Am I buying real estate? Because in my experience, and I have considerable in with property developers, if you are offering disclosure, I should be seeing an offer of sale, as an offer of sale can only be made with a full disclosure statement, EO&E. KWIM?

Is this really necessary? Do I have to listen to this kind of communication? I certainly refuse to fluff up my communications to clients with such grand phrases. They’d think I’d gone nuts. In fact, I can tell you their reply: “Albert?”

It’s not me. I suspect it’s not most people. So why do we do it? Are we trying to be someone we are not? Are we attempting to fit into the cubicle in which the corporate world so desperately wants to stuff us? Are we doing this because we think it is what the other person wants us to say? Have we let the marketing and communications department people spike the purple Koolade?

Or are we just trying to cover up our inability to actually uphold a conversation?

I guess the old expression holds true; “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.”

I’m more in tune with; “Speak clearly and carry a little humility.”


Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. He lives, writes, plays, and consults for clients on Canada’s West Coast. While writing this, he couldn’t get the banjo out of his head, nor could he shake the image of Herbert Coward’s character extolling the virtues of an attractive oral fissure. Speaking clearly and the art of conversation has helped make his company, GreatCreative.Com, successful. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire.