I spend almost every hour of every day trying to find ways to help people communicate better with one another. It’s my profession, and my avocation. I always tell my trainees and audiences that communication is the secret ingredient to all human interaction. I would like to think that when any two people sit down, with a cup of coffee, and talk over their differences, positive outcomes can occur. After 41 years as a professional communicator, however, I have come to believe this perspective is naive. After viewing the tragedy in Tucson, I KNOW it is naive.
I can not offer any logical explanation for what happened in Tucson, Columbine, The World Trade Center, or elsewhere. But, I have to find a way to go on even when many of my hopes for humankind are shaken and my optimism sags. I can’t stand up in front of my audiences with messages of gloom and doom. Yet, I also can’t see tragedy with “rose colored glasses” as an “opportunity” for renewal the way I’ve heard some people talk or write about it in the last few days.
My only way for getting through tragedy and keeping positive as a professional communicator is to focus on small acts. Focus on how you talk to your coworkers. Do you greet them when you see them in the hallway? Focus on how you interact with the clerk at Starbucks. Do you say “Good Morning” before you bark out your coffee order. Focus on your spouse. Do you say “Thank you” every time they empty the dishwasher or do some small chore for you?
Small kindnesses can actually stimulate the flow of dopamine in the brain and re-charge us with both a physical and psychological “high.” They can also become an anchor during times of grief and tragedy.