Communication is all about sharing a (hopefully) passionate story with another. In doing so we often use shorthand — jargon, references to other cultural material to give additional flavour or ‘back story’, even clothing.
I was reminded of this by a seemingly unimportant event this week (but sometimes, as Jung and M. Scott Peck have both pointed out, synchronicity can be a vital clue from a higher entity).
I was driving to the shops to drop a hired dvd off at our local Blockbuster and I saw someone dash across the road. A male, they had their back to me so I couldn’t see their face.
What struck me was that they were dressed all in black — black shoes, black jeans, black woolen jumper. Probably with a black t-shirt on, for all I know. They had the sleeves of their jumper pulled up their forearms and I instantly thought that they were in the graphic design or advertising business, because that’s the uniform that seems to be universally accepted by the trade. I had seen the look in London, Sydney, San Francisco, Melbourne and now back in sleepy ol’ Adelaide.
Just as I had made that synaptic connection, the man turned his head to check the on-coming traffic and I realised that I knew him — a friend of mine, my age, who did indeed work in the trade, in one of the big ad agencies.
Seth talks about how uniforms can help tell a story, too. It doesn’t matter whether the uniform is an official one like, say, a McDonald’s uniform or an airline hostess (affectionately known by some as a ‘trolley dolly’), or an unofficial ‘brand’ like my design/ad industry friend – they all help tell your story.
Back in the 1970s there was a fabulous band here in Australia — Skyhooks — who had a great line in sardonic, witty lyrics and catchy hooks. One of their biggest hits was with the song “Blue Jeans”
Everybody’s wearing blue jeans,
Everybody’s got their own scene,
Everybody’s lost in day dreams,
But everybody’s wearing blue jeans.
It’s part of the reason why, in a city seemingly in love with blue denim, I choose to wear chinos instead.
The point to this post?
What ‘uniform’ do you wear to tell your story? What story do you think your uniform tells? Are you sure? Have you checked with someone that what you think you are communicating is what is being received by others?
I might wear a funky modern t-shirt into a client’s offices to tell a story about my hipness and coolness, but I just might be communicating that I am trying too hard to hold on to my youth — balding, 40-something men more often look frumpy rather than funky.
Communicating effectively is about not only delivering your message, but ensuring that it is received and understood in the way you originally intended.