I know. I know. I must be on drugs myself to talk about communication and cocaine in the same sentence, right?
But if you consider the facts closely, I think you’ll agree with me that when it comes to the impact you should be having on people’s hearts and minds, there are actually a lot of similarities between communication and cocaine.
Admittedly, I am being very silly and this is NOT an endorsement to start doing drugs.
Pretty much everything I say about the impact of drugs in this article (except when it comes to alcohol and specifically Lagavulin whisky) is lifted directly from the excellent Talk To Frank website (I promise, officer!). But what’s life without a little craziness or controversy, right?
So with my lawyer’s defence stated for the record, let’s now examine the evidence to see whether I’m on to something or just on something.
(If you really want to improve your communication skills, try my Outstanding Public Speaker Webinar – it’s free (unlike the drugs!)
Shall we start with what communication is not?
Not like alcohol
Communication ain’t like alcohol. Alcohol makes you feel fuzzy, confused and generally incoherent. It scrambles the brain and when you wake up in the morning, you can’t remember a thing from the night before.
When you communicate effectively, your audience should be clear about what you say. They should also remember your message long after you’ve finished speaking.
Nope. Communicating cannot be like alcohol.
Not like heroin
Heroin is destructive. It makes users vomit. Its psychological effects are unpredictable, ranging from euphoria to sleepiness. Its potency is typically cut down with other non-effective substitutes like sugar, baby powder and starch making any high shortlived; and the risks of overdosing and death are all too real.
So if you’re trying to figure out how to communicate in a way that works, don’t be like heroin. People shouldn’t feel nauseous when you speak. Your message should not be diluted with irrelevancies, and never ever overdose with too many facts that bore your audience to death!
Not like cannabis
You definitely don’t want your communication to be like marijuana. When people get stoned, they might get giggly, chatty, lethargic, paranoid, confused and generally spaced out. That might seem like harmless fun but if your audience starts to zone out when you speak, that is a pretty bad sign.
Not like ecstasy
Sure if you want to get your audience into a state of ecstasy, you could look to make your communication like the happy pills. But that also comes with a healthy dose of paranoia and panic attacks. And since the psychological impact of pills reduces over time, you’ll have to keep getting crazier and crazier with what you say, just to have the same impact, you know, like a certain US President!
Don’t be like ecstasy. It’s just an unsustainable high!
Not like magic mushrooms
Hallucinations can be wild and sometimes even spark inspired insights. But that means you aren’t in control of the images that will be coming into people’s minds. Your aim should always be to capture your audience’s attention and keep it focused on what you are saying. You don’t want their minds wondering all over the place.
Communication and cocaine
Which brings us to our friend, Charlie. (No, mum. Never have and never will. Promise!)
What exactly are the similarities between the impact of the white powder and the impact you should be looking to have when you communicate?
Let us count the ways.
- highly addictive – you definitely want your communication to be so intoxicating that people can’t get enough of you
- versatile (it can be ingested in different ways) – the greatest communicators are dynamic and can vary their delivery to suit their audience’s preferred learning style
- causes palpitations – you want to get your audience’s heart racing by causing an emotional reaction.
- raises body temperature – a great communicator should never leave other people feeling cold towards them. Nothing worse than indifference.
- makes people alert – after all, you don’t want people falling asleep whilst you’re speaking, do you?
- confidence-inducing – can inspire and empower others to believe in themselves by the power of what you say and how you say it?
- increases sex drive – hey, if you’ve ever come off stage after nailing a great speech and mingled with your audience afterwards, you’ll know what I mean about the impact a great speech can have on people.
On the other hand, cocaine can also make you feel sick, restless, panicky and trigger some very uncomfortable bowel movements (if you know what I mean). And I can definitely think of a number of communicators that have that impact on people when they speak!
So, where does all this take us? I have no idea. This was just a random thought that occurred to me one day (over a whisky) and I’m a “follow through on things” kind of guy. I’ll probably get a lot of grief for this. But that’s OK. Better to cause a reaction than cause no reaction at all.