Listen to Jim: http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/
or read on…
Three lessons I’ve learned from a lifetime of misreading my visible and invisible audiences:
I’m delivering an energetic but hopefully entertaining diatribe on the art of communicating with the public. This is way back when I believe that the profession of Public Relations Practitioner is tantamount to a Calling, that I can actually change the world—or at least cause it to shift slightly on its axis—by telling the Truth. My audience of writers and communicators is rapt, which encourages me to go on about the importance of Detecting BS in all public messages, be they purposeful or inadvertent. And I preach about the BS factor, the litmus test for finding fact amid the babble. Proud of myself, I stop to take questions. “Uh, what does ‘BS’ mean?” one participant asks. I freeze, my mind racing to do two things instantly without allowing the crowd to see me sweat. First, I realize that a generous amount of my speech has fallen on deaf ears, since they don’t know what I am talking about. Second, I try to verbalize a definition of BS that will avoid using the “S” word, this being a Baptist school with lots of prim and proper folk scattered among the folding chairs. “Uh, BS means bullshooting—you know, covering over the truth with your own agenda or message.” Saved! That seems to satisfy the inquisitor.
Another jarring lesson:
I’m performing some of my stories before a group of educated and skilled authors and artists, going on about my book, “How to Become Your Own Book,” all about the joy of creating words and images. I provide lively examples from popular culture, so that each point will have some gravitas as it is being digested. I read a wonderful passage from Jack Benny’s autobiography, a piece about life, both poetic and instructive, an example of great and simple writing. After a dramatic pause to allow the words to sink in, a middle-aged participant timidly raises her hand and inquires, “Who is this Jack Benny?” I sputter and explain, knowing that, once again, I have assumed that my audience knows everything I know. The lesson I learn from this is, IF MY AUDIENCE KNOWS EVERYTHING I KNOW, WHAT AM I DOING WASTING THEIR TIME? ‘Tis better to lead them gently into new ideas, making sure that they are following each step.
And one more lesson, Grasshopper:
Two days ago, I am groaning my way into a very cold car seat, preparing to face low temperatures and a short ride to the shop. I get the motor going, then reach for my genuine brown cloth Family Dollar bargain garden gloves (four pairs for $2.00) to give my pinkies protection against the day. The gloves are not on the passenger seat, so I grope around between the seats to see it they’ve fallen into an abyss of thingies that accumulate there. Ah! A glove! Shivering excitedly, I pull the soft fabric onto my left hand and reach down for the right-hand glove. There it is! I try to don it but it, too, is a left-handed glove. Muttering in amazement, I open the glove compartment—where else would you find a spare glove—and pull yet another one out. It, too, is a left-handed glove! Now I’m speaking words to the frosty air that I try to refrain from using in public. I slam the glove compartment closed, but it pops back open because the stuff stuffed within is expanding like a nova. Ah! Again! I suddenly see popping out onto the floor a genuine right-handed glove. I calm down a bit, slide it on, then resume trying to close the cotton-pickin’ door. Fifth try is magic and it sticks shut. At this point, my mind is sorting out what else is going on around me, and I realize someone is giggling nearby. I lower the window because my friend Lon is standing there, having observed my entire Passion of the Family Dollar Store Bargain Gloves. He’s having so much fun, he could use a bag of buttered popcorn. I am now beyond dignity and simply join in the laughter, having learned that sometimes the audience you are performing for is invisible…so you’d best be on good behavior at all times to avoid being packed into the doofus category that life provides free of charge
© Jim Reed 2014 A.D.