My perspective - Time to talk


Kate Jackman - Atkinson
The Neepawa Banner

I’m a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s writing and one of the things that makes it so engaging is that he’s great at finding a person to embody what might be an abstract idea. Following his work, you can tell he’s good at something that many find elusive, the cold call.

The only way to get the kind of personal stories that make for engaging reading is to call someone up and talk to them. I suspect that it takes hours of conversation to get that one gem that makes it to publication, but it’s worth it. Perhaps it’s part of his personality, perhaps it’s a trait he honed after years of working as a journalist and author, but regardless of the source, this is a very useful skill.

Along the same lines, I have a family friend who was once trying to prepare one of Julia Child’s recipes.  He couldn’t quite understand what she was explaining in the directions, so he looked up her number in the phone book and called her.  She explained the process and he continued with the preparation. 

Being able to reach out to people isn’t just a novel skillset used by keen home chefs and bestselling authors. This skill is actually extremely important in our daily lives, more so than many of us think. For many people, being able to talk to people is a necessity of the job— we have to talk to clients, customers and suppliers.  But beyond that, these connections are what our communities are really built on.

Each of us, as individuals or groups, have a certain silo of knowledge; we know the events that we have planned, we know our skills, we often have an idea of what we need to achieve our goals and dreams, but don’t always have all the pieces needed to make them a reality. The other problem with these silos is that while we may assume that everyone knows what we do, that’s just not the case. For our communities to function their best, we need people who know what’s going on in the other silos, or who can ask.  We need to reach across these invisible divides.

In every community, there are many examples of this both failing and succeeding. There are examples of development which has occurred because people were able to reach out and bring together vision, capital and skill.  There are also examples of events organized at conflicting times and competing projects that could have been so much more if combined. Our histories are filled with events and projects that could have been so much more, if only groups or individuals had co-ordinated.

A phobia of talking on the phone isn’t uncommon; people worry about tone, about being put on the spot, about sounding ill-prepared. The same is true about talking face-to-face with those outside your existing circle. But talking is a skill like any other and the only way to get better is to do it. It’s hard today, when impersonal electronic communication is so easy, but at the end of the day, to go beyond the basics, nothing compares to phone calls or face-to-face.

When it comes to building stronger communities, we need to get outside of our silos.  We need to actively pickup the phone, or talk to someone at the grocery store, park, ball diamond or rink. We need to know what is, or could be, we need to know what skills and talent exist in neighbours. It’s not that hard, and it’s necessary, if we want to see our communities grow.