Communication Changes the World

I’m a believer in the effectiveness of communication for social change. But I wasn’t always.

I used to think that talk was cheap, but now I know better. Words do, indeed, matter.

In fact, I’ve come to believe a radical truth: Communication changes the world like little else can.

Communication Changes the World
Photo Credit: Kheel Center (Creative Commons)

Where would we be without the telephone or the Internet or political campaign speeches?

What would the world be like without television or radio?

Where would you and I be without the gift of conversation — of a text message, a meeting, a note?

Talk is… cheap?

Correction: Talk can be cheap. But it doesn’t have to be.

Talk is just talk.

It’s our actions that make them cheap. Not the words. Words are symbols of the lives we choose to lead.

I’m compelled to use this gift of communication to change lives. It’s happened before, and it can happen again. Here are three ways that communication changes the world:

1. Communication breaks down barriers

Learning a second language in college has taught me a lot about cultural barriers and language. It turns out that translation is a myth, that there is no such thing as fluency, and that all communication is interpretation. (Each of those are a blog post or conversation in and of themselves.)

When you are communicating with someone in their own language and style, there is understanding. And with understanding, there is empathy. There is connection.

2. Communication inspires

Have you ever been inspired by a speech? Did you ever see a movie that left you feeling full of life and excitement? Maybe you had a song’s lyrics touch your heart?

That’s communication at work. The artful, dynamic power of a message sent and received with success.

When tragedy befalls a country, what do we expect? We look to our leaders for consolation, for comfort, for inspiration. And how does that come?

Through communication:

  • A radio broadcast.
  • A TV announcement.
  • A speech.

There is something about the written or spoken word that inspires us to be better than we could be on our own, something that unites us and connects us to ideas in extraordinary ways.

3. Communication teaches the communicator

When you’re delivering a speech, writing a book, or even crafting a blog post, there is an implicit requirement: You have to understand the message yourself.

If you don’t, the message makes no sense. You can only fake so much. (Very little, in fact.)

So what do you do if you don’t know the subject? How do you prepare for your message?

You do research. You study. You learn.

Even if you have thorough knowledge of your subject (which is a good idea before attempting to deliver a message), you should still deepen your knowledge.

It may be a quote or a series of historical events or a fun fact that you commit to memory, but professional communicators are always learning new things.

You learn a lot just through the process of putting together the message, because as a communicator, you’re positioning yourself as a teacher.

And everyone knows that teachers make the best students.

How have you seen communication change the world (or you)? Share your thoughts in the comments.

This is part of a synchronized blogging effort that the folks at Dynamic Communicators Workshops are hosting here: “Communication that Changes the World.” You can follow it on their website or via Twitter at #SpeakForAChange.

Other Posts on World-Changing Communication

*Photo credit: Kheel Center (Creative Commons)

31 thoughts on “Communication Changes the World

  1. I beginning to believe that I have the ability to change the world. It may not be in a sense I previously thought, but I do believe it’s possible. I think they path for me to believe that that can happen is because of communication has changed me. Through my writing and my speaking, I can’t tell you how many times the message was probably more for than me than it was for my reader or my students.

        1. When i was bought up in london i remember  the G.P.O building opening, and i remember as a kid going up and dining in its revolving restaurant  with amazing views over london , of course it was a state monopolised gigantic aerial dawning the age of massive communications expansion and automation to speed up the process up and make it much more accessable to the masses which basically meant you had your landline in your house that all the residents would share (not much privacy there then! ) but now we live in this totally “communicated world, a paradise,  where our communication tool is carried around with us……..will continue if your interested  (is this a good thing or a bad thing )……… 

  2. “Changing the world” sounds huge, almost impossible, grandiose even. But change happens one person at a time. Which means the world can be influenced by a conversation in a coffee shop just as well as a presentation on a platform. Maybe even more so at times, because of it’s potential to change both people in the process. Thanks for this, Jeff.

  3. People’s lives are shaped by their perceptions. Their perceptions are shaped by what’s been communicated to them. Great communicators have tremendous power to make people smile, laugh, cry, or fight. This isn’t just speech-givers. It’s also parents, teachers, pastors, friends, and spouses.

  4. “The words are merely symbols of the lives we choose to lead.”

    Now that is a quote I’m going to come back to. This is definitely one of my favorite posts of yours, Jeff.

    Talk is only cheap if you aren’t living it. But when you are, talk change everything. Communication is influence. You are definitely one with influence, Jeff!

  5. I love the idea of communicating to others as a way to learn more yourself.  You have to truly understand something to teach and/or share with others.  A great message for anyone who wants to communicate and use communication as an agent of change.

  6. Such an awesome post! I agree that communication is very powerful. I have witnessed the power of communication in the workplace via emails and presentations on a regular basis. I’ve actually started studying presenting and slide design on my own.

  7. I have definitely felt the effects of communication. I often ponder the way reading the book “On The Road,” by Jack Kerouac inspired me with an adventurism I might otherwise not have gotten elsewhere, but also an irresponsibility for which I had to find a cure elsewhere. One example of millions.

      1. I’ve actually stopped recommending it, actually. Kerouac gave voice to the confusion and yearning of his generation, but I don’t believe he supplied any real answers.

  8. My heart almost lept out of my chest when I just read the title of this post! Completely, completely agree. My degree is in communication and I am devoting my life to it. This is exactly what I got taught in the classroom, and I always felt like others needed to hear it as well. Thank you for writing and sharing this with the world! 

  9. Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after. – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

  10. You’ll have to unpack “translation is a myth” for me. Having to speak last week in an Arabic culture, I used a translator twice to communicate (and I’m sure that’s not what you’re getting at). I know from living in Russia that sometimes a word just can’t be translated because it needs the context of the culture in which it’s spoken.

    As to fluency, I remember in my early Russian days asking another American, “Are you fluent in Russian?” He noted that fluency depends on the setting. For example, in a meeting with doctors and medical staff, they may speak English but I’m not fluent in their terminology. On the other hand, although my Russian was limited, I tended to be fluent in bird terms because of my hobby of bird watching.

    Last week I noted among my fellow American travelers that language isn’t something to be studied but a means of connecting with people. When you’re in a class room, you’re just studying words. When you’re lost in a large Russian city (as my wife was within our first week in country), you’re suddenly motivated to learn enough to find your way home.

    1. Translation (word for word) is impossible. All translation is interpretation. Each language is unique. There’s not a one-for-one correlation from one to another.

      1. Yes, that’s definitely true. As I noted earlier, words often need to be understood in the context of the particular culture. For example, “privacy” doesn’t translate well in the Russian culture. I remember being surprised when a Russian friend, one well versed in English, couldn’t translate that word or concept. She needed an explanation and, even with the explanation, still seemed puzzled.

  11. Write on brother. We can only start to meet the world half way by communicating first. That said, check out our upcoming online publication Sojourn Sentence, here for puns on permanence (or whatever may come and go our way).
    “Keep your chin up, You. And keep
    level when all the real shit starts to go down. Just remember what I told you
    back there, it was brilliant. I don’t remember what I said but it was
    brilliant.” (Excerpt from Howard Ayno)

  12. Backwards, I am. Communication has shaped my life to be sure. Not in any aha configuration one might imagine. My issues with communication began before I could speak. Lack of communication was the order of the day in my immediate family laced with unstated, unreasonable expectations, permeated by ambiguous to non-existant instruction weighed down by an empty Coping Skills tool belt. The irony in this is that I was born to be a communicator. I love people and talking with others. To say I am a talker is a gross understatement. My strengths lie in putting others at ease and being able to relate to where they are in this journey. It has taken the better part of 4 decades to break the communication patterns of my past and while I am light years from where I started it often feels like I’m millennia away from where I am called to be. My mother is, pardon the reference, she is kind of a spiritual Helen Keller~pre Annie Sullivan. My communication issues were complicated by placating, inability to use the word ‘No’, and my all around synapse collapse. My mouth, as fast as it moves is not able to keep up with the multiple conversations that Imbue my mind. At 45 I still have to push thru when it comes to expressing my heart. The best thing I have come to understand about communication is that it isn’t instinctive as much as learned behaviors. As Mai Angelou said ‘When we know better, we do better…’ Hopefully.

  13. I do believe in the power of words and languages. I’m a french guy, living in Paris, working as a communication executive. I know so many people that could not access the knowledge and the wisdom offered by a few like yourself because they feel stuck or are too lazy to learn, travel and live experiences abroad. Learning and pushing everyday to master the Engilsh (and even the French) language has brought me so much knowledge and connection to this world. Thank you for sharing. Your work is inspirational.

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