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Posts Tagged ‘Communication’

I love the movie Chef (2014). It tells the story of chef Carl Casper, a workaholic who must re-invent himself after he has a public meltdown over a bad review. Carl is not a likeable character at the start. He’s incredibly flawed. His poor communication skills have led to a strained relationship with his son and likely the reason for his divorce. Those flaws get amplified in the events leading to his meltdown. We don’t like him and I’m not sure we’re supposed to. But we see that his friends like him and his staff respects him, so he can’t be all bad. That’s enough for us to root for his redemption, even as we’re not sure why he deserves it.

 

Ultimately, I think this movie is about communication. How do we communicate what’s important to us? How do we communicate with who is important to us?

 

Carl’s communication at the beginning of the movie is terrible. He ducks his son and backs out of promises to spend time. Even when he’s physically with him, his mind often seems elsewhere. While we don’t know for certain, it feels likely that this same distance led to his divorce. Communication at work is not much better. Carl has a good relationship with his staff, but has clear miscommunication with his boss, which eventually leads Carl getting fired.

 

It’s not until midway through the movie that we finally see a turn. In this fantastically weird scene Carl’s ex-wife’s ex-husband (played wonderfully by Robert Downey Jr) talks circles around Carl and no one, neither Carl nor the audience, ever seems to truly understand where the conversation is going. Perhaps at this point Carl finally starts to realize what poor communication feels like from the other side. His bewilderment, and ours, is almost palpable. From that moment on, his communication improves. Whether it’s from this experience or simply the change in scenery, Carl starts to communicate more clearly and transform into a character we can root for.

 

I love how Chef illustrates technology throughout the movie. We see little animated blue birds flying off into the air whenever tweets are sent and shared. A cute reminder that once the message is out there, it takes on a life of its own. The use of Twitter throughout the movie helps drive home how fraught our communication has become with the growth of technology. Without visual or aural cues, or even space to formulate full thoughts, it’s become increasingly easy to misunderstand people or misrepresent oneself.

 

That’s not to say that Twitter is all bad. Carl’s son Percy uses it within the food truck business to help Carl reinvent himself. Percy’s engagement with the tool is the most mature, ironic as he is the youngest cast member by far. However through Percy we see how technology can be used to foster communication between people. His “one second video” experiment finally helps Carl see in a fresh way the value of their relationship and leads to a new avenue of communication between them.

 

Follow Carl’s journey we’re left at the end to ponder if our own use of technology is helping or hindering our communication. Are we paying attention or missing out on relationships right in front of us? Are we connecting deeper or staying at a surface level? Are we using the tool or is the tool using us?

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I watched Apple’s Keynote address this afternoon. I’ll admit, partly because I wanted to geek out over the new tech, but also because I wanted to see how Apple presented their new stuff. In my opinion, Apple is better than any other company at generating excitement around their products. Plus their products have come to define this current generation. Even if you don’t use Apple products, I bet you use something designed to compete with Apple.

Apple has built a business around convincing people that their products will make their lives better. You can’t do that without exceptional communication. Simply put, when it comes to communication, Apple connects with people. So anyone interested in communicating effectively should pay attention to what Apple is doing.

Here are some things I noticed.

Repetition: Tim Cook had a phrase for each tech that he repeated multiple times. “The iPhone 6 and 6+ are best iPhones we’ve ever made.” “The Apple Watch is most personal and intimate tech we’ve ever made.” “Apple Pay is fast, easy, and secure.” Each time he spoke, he came back to this simple idea. He didn’t want you to leave without hearing and remembering that idea. If you took away nothing else, you were taking away those key ideas.

Multiple speakers: Tim Cook did not dominate the stage. This one surprised me. I assumed that as the CEO he would be the guy. Cook did talk about each of the reveals, but he also invited others on stage to share more, either in person or through video clips. He let those most familiar with the products share the details. This was not a one-man show.

Presentation of Information: Apple was always willing to share the technical specs of the devices. We heard about screen sizes and battery life. We got in-depth looks at camera lenses. But you didn’t have to be an engineer to follow the talks, because after going through the specs, the presenters told you why they mattered. They never got too stuck in megapixels or beveled edges because they could always say “here is what this means for you.”

Length: As someone who talks for a living, I was very curious to see how long the presentations were. I’ve heard a lot about how technology is reducing our collective attention spans and so the days of 20 minute (or longer) sermons are gone because people can’t pay attention. And, sure enough, no one talked for 20 minutes uninterrupted. There were plenty of video clips to keep these moving plus the aforementioned string of speakers. However, the keynote event lasted 2 hours with minimal audience participation and the audience was clearly engaged throughout. So that leaves the question unanswered I think. Certainly technology has changed how we engage information but as to whether it has changed our attention span, I’m less sure. 

So that’s what I noticed from the Keynote. What stood out to you?

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Feeding the Hype

How do we respond to those who present polarizing viewpoints or ideas we feel are incorrect without feeding them the publicity they often craze?

Last Halloween a church in North Carolina sponsored a book burning, including all translations of the Bible that were not the King James.  The Youtube video spread throughout my Facebook contacts.  More recently there were Pat Robertson’s comments on Haiti or Glen Beck’s comments on churches promoting social justice.  And of course, the Westboro Baptist Church always produces strong opinions.

We may want to challenge them.  We may even feel the need to challenge them.  And sometimes that impulse is good and correct.  But do we feed the problem at the same time?  Is there a way to respond without driving the phenomenon?

Furthermore, do we consider our own desires to feel superior when we offer such critiques or corrections?  How often do we respond not because we genuinely care for the other individual but because we want to show our own enlightened knowledge?

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