Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Communication And Its Aftermath

The American public fulfilled one of its major obligations earlier this month; that was, of course, voting in the presidential election. This obligation was, in effect, an act of communication. As you’ve probably seen, everyone who has an opinion on the election and why things turned out the way they did has likely given that opinion.

Historians will look at this simple act of voting—played out person by person across the country—as probably one of the biggest statements ever made by the American public to its national political leaders. Another observation from the election is that when one doesn’t communicate, which was done by those people who did not vote, there will be implications. These post-election observations are useful to us in our day-to-day lives; more on that later.

Of those who voted in this month’s divisive election, about half of us voted for one major candidate and half voted for the other; but all registered voters had the opportunity to vote. So what is interesting is that many people belonging to crucial categories who were expected to vote either did not vote at all, or they voted for the candidate they were least expected to support.

My point in all of this is not to gloat or despair, and it’s certainly not to spend any more of my mental energy thinking about politics. Today, the primary observation I want to make is that communication is probably the most important thing we do in all aspects of our lives. If we do it well, we increase the likelihood of a good outcome; do it badly, then look out.

As I mentioned last month, the candidates over-communicated to us, and they clearly staked out their positions on policy and many trivial matters—and look what happened. They wore us out, but they also engaged the nation in debate, polarized friends against friends, and solidified their support across the nation. As a result, the candidates successfully communicated their messages, and I would suggest that the winning candidate was more successful in communicating what he wanted America to hear.

I write this blog while hovering around that sometimes-vague intersection of communication and grammar. Sometimes I find a connection for us to see, and sometimes I don’t.

In the election, there was a connection that needs to be mentioned. For ourselves, we know that if we communicate well while following simple truths in grammar, other people will understand us and our messages. Each of the candidates (in general) communicated clearly and explicitly about themselves and their proposed policies, they propagated incredible opinions (some true and some untrue) about their opponent, and they convinced millions of voters to believe in them and what they were all about. In the end, one candidate succeeded while the other one did not. One candidate’s messages got through to a broader spectrum of recipients while the other’s messages came up short. Yet still, the process of communication worked.

Were the two candidates perfect in everything they did? Oh no. They each had many personal and political missteps that will take historians years to examine. What was interesting is that although the candidates made mistakes in what they were doing, they did not stop what they were doing. They got up the next day, addressed their mistakes (sometimes—not always), and kept on going.

It is that attitude and willpower that we must have as we go through our lives. A get-back-on-the-horse mentality is crucial in the context of communication, grammar, and all else that we do. A mistake does not define us unless we let it do so, so please find some solace each day in the truism that none of us is perfect. And if we make a communication faux pas, it’s not the end of the world. It is simply an opportunity to make a correction to ensure a better outcome. Then we learn and get better.

I feel for you in this post-election confusion and amazement, and I hope that you will accept what you can and keep moving forward with your own lives within the context of our new national leadership.

Have a great December, send me your questions, and please bookmark my blog for easy reference.
Randall Ponder, Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA        @randallponder

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