Words Are Fundamental In Our WorkLives and Are the Medium Through Which We Communicate Who We Are and What We Stand For
Communication and The Power of Words A Case Study:
I was at a masterclass at the Theatre Royal Haymarket London at which the actor Mark Strong shared his experience of the industry and his career before hosting a Q and A. One of the questions Mark was asked was how he gets into a character — to understand the essence of their being. His reply was that it’s in the writing and he gets everything he needs from the words. He spoke in particular about his role as Eddie in the play: A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller.
Words are fundamental in our lives and the medium through which we communicate who we are and what we stand for.
Words of Wisdom
Words have the power to change the world.
Just as Mark used the written words to understand who Eddie is, the people we interact with come to understand our beliefs, values and dreams though the words we use to communicate. Because as people it’s what we can communicate with words — ideas, images, hopes, theories, fears, vulnerabilities, plans, understanding, expectations, a past, a present, and a future, culture, community, ways of seeing …. the list is endless, and the power is simply powerful.
In Three Uses Of The Knife, David Mamet says: “It’s in our nature to dramatise. At least once a day we reinterpret the weather — an essentially impersonal phenomenon — into an expression of our current view of the universe: Great. It’s raining. Just when I’m blue. Isn’t that just like life?”
“Or we say: “I can’t remember when it was this cold, in order to forge a bond with our contemporaries. Or we say: When I was a lad the winters were longer, in order to avail ourselves of one of the delights of ageing.
The weather is impersonal, and we both understand it and exploit it as dramatic, i.e. having a plot, in order to understand its meaning for the hero, which is to say for ourselves.”
Whenever we communicate there is much at stake, and perhaps even more so in our working environment. When you’re preparing your next communication — conversation, presentation or talk — to help your process, consider the following techniques actors in training develop to hone their skills in understanding the words, that will allow them to deliver them with the greatest impact:
They are encouraged to read play after play after play because script analysis is the nuts and bolts in the literal fleshing out to bring characters to life. Every line of dialogue, every movement, every action and reaction gives an understanding of a character’s motivations and objectives, emotions and desires, and allows the actor to step in and become the character.
You can apply this technique by following the ‘Thought Leaders’ in your industry: study them as the actor does to gain valuable insights into their characters and stories. Use the same approach to understand what’s happening outside of your industry and sector, to recognise successful trends, practices and behaviours that could make a difference to your world.
Interestingly writers are often recommended to take an acting course to follow this same process, because particularly in the early stages of developing a concept, they need to get to know their characters inside and out; and learning to live in a character’s skin, the same way actors do, sharpens their innate ability to substitute and imagine emotionally truthful stories.
There may come a time when you think of taking an acting class to develop your understanding of character and voice — technically to develop a great speaking voice and also to develop your unique character voice that will motivate, inspire and impact those listening to you.
For now, you can draw on your learnings from the observations you make as you go about your daily WorkLife — conversing, listening, watching and reading.
For example, let’s consider how Mark Strong gained an understanding of his character Eddie and the world he existed in, from this analysis by Sparknotes for A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller:
“A View from the Bridge is a play largely concerned with discovery. As Alfieri warns, no one can ever know what will be discovered. There are two secrets in the play: Eddie’s incestuous desires for his niece and the two illegal immigrants hiding in the Carbone home, Marco and Rodolpho. The gradual exposition of these secrets destroys Eddie, as he is incapable of dealing with either discovery. An inarticulate man, Eddie is unable to realise, speak or understand his own feelings for Catherine and cannot forgive himself for exposing Marco and Rodolpho. Eddie’s feelings toward Catherine manifest themselves into fierce protectiveness and eventual rage at Rodolpho. Because of his inability to deal with his feelings, Eddie instinctively reveals his second secret — Marco and Rodolpho — which completes his undoing.
Now let’s consider how you can adapt the process of your WorkLife observations to your story — the concept, idea, message you want to communicate — by following these four steps:
- Begin by understanding the bigger picture in the same way Strong did. In writing the story, Miller used his prowess in communicating the great conflict between community and American law. The words he used gave Strong a deep-rooted understanding of the world his character Eddie existed in, the challenges and problems, and the changes that needed to take place if he were to be able to move beyond these. You will need the same understanding of the world/industry/organisation/team/partnership you operate in.
- In writing, Miller took time to get to know people at grassroots level, to understand their hopes, dreams, fears and challenges. You need to stand in the shoes of your audience to understand your world from different perspectives. These are the first steps in developing your message to communicate your understanding of what others are feeling and thinking and show respect of other’s point of view.
- Having an understanding of both the big and small picture (the world you operate in and the individuals within that world) provides the backdrop to your story (the concept, idea, message you want to communicate), as well as an understanding of the fundamental words you need to use that have the power to arouse every emotion, and how to deliver them with the greatest impact that demands a call to action.
- To develop your story from here, begin by asking yourself the questions: From the knowledge I’ve gathered what makes a good story? What makes a good drama? Take time to reflect through self-feedback. This will give you the insight into the words you can use to shape and tell your story in a way that is powerful.
“I love all insider memoirs. It doesn’t matter whether it’s truck-drivers or doctors. I think everyone likes to go backstage, find out what people think and what they talk about and what specialised job they have.” David Mamet
Words Have Power. You have the power to change the world of those around you. Think of the words you can use to do that. Then: JUST SAY THEM.
Today’s featured book is: Three Uses Of The Knife by David Mamet.
Communication and The Power of Words … are stories which demonstrate what we can communicate with words — ideas, images, hopes, theories, fears, vulnerabilities, plans, understanding, expectations, a past, a present, and a future, culture, community, ways of seeing … the list is endless, and the power is simply powerful.
WorkLife Book Wisdom Stories:
The intention of the stories I share is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories, you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles, failures and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride.
My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife Story.
I believe stories are a powerful mechanism for teaching, a powerful medium to learn through, and a powerful way to communicate who you are and what you stand for.