Did you say what you really meant to say?
Just out recently is a book by John Britt and Vaishakhi Bharucha, titled What I Really Meant to Say, a much-needed book on interpersonal communications. How many times have we said things we didn’t mean to? How many times have we not been able to say things that we did mean to say? And of course, there’s a countless number of times when we don’t even realize what we do want to say or how the other person is responding to it.
Clearly, communication is the basis of all relationships, and that is what this book covers in a simple and readable manner.
Of the authors, John Britt is a best-selling published author in the US, with books co-authored with the celebrated Ken Blanchard and the highly acclaimed Harry Paul. Vaishakhi Bharucha comes from the Ogilvy stable and was Senior Creative Director at OgilvyOne in Mumbai followed by a stint at Capgemini where she set up and headed the Customer Experience function. Published by Rupa Publications the book brings together the tools of the West and the wisdom from the East. The book covers the ‘A to Z of Meaningful Conversations and Deeper Relationships’ with each of the 26 aspects of conversations illustrated with a simple relatable scenario.
You hit the nail on the head. As authors you have addressed the most relevant subject through your book ‘What I Really Meant to Say!’ How did the idea emerge to bring this topic through a book?
John Britt: The older I became, the more aware I became of how a “missed communication” can cause harm in a personal relationship and/or a business relationship.
I began this book several years before it came to fruition in the form and style that you see now. Previously, I had the honour of being Ken Blanchard’s co-author of Who Killed Change? a “whodunit” business parable about solving the mystery of leading people through change. I initially wrote this book under a working title of Who Silenced Communication? It was in the same style of Who Killed Change?; that is, a business parable in which I personified the characters associated with communication. Like the previous book, it was packed with nuance and subtle sarcasm.
My wife, Cindy, who happens to have PhD in English Composition and Rhetoric, read the manuscript and gave me some wonderful advice; that is, it might be counterintuitive to shroud the messaging in a nuanced business parable. In short (and perhaps ironically given the topic), she said why don’t you just come out and say what you want to say?
That is exactly what I began to do. Shortly after that, through what I will call divine intervention, I had the opportunity to meet Vaishakhi. We had multiple conversations about the impact of culture, context, gender, diversity (the list goes on) on communication. It did not take me long to understand that she had the experience, talent and a perspective that could take the manuscript from good to great. I could not have been more pleased when she agreed to join me as a co-author.
What was your objective and what inspired you to write this useful and insightful book which will educate many?
Vaishakhi Bharucha: As you know, I have been in the business of communications for decades, yet this was a different way of looking at it. So, when the opportunity to collaborate with John presented itself, I was ready from the get-go. And I loved every moment of this collaboration!
When you planned to pen this book, who was the target audience in your mind? Can you explain the kind of thinking and process that went behind in compiling this book and making it relevant and useful?
John Britt: I knew from the beginning that the principles in this book crossed all boundaries. Whether you are communicating with a friend, a colleague at work or a family member, the core principles in this book apply. We wrote the book so that it does not have to be read in a linear fashion. After reading the introduction, we advise the reader to scan the table of contents and pick the top 2-3 opportunities they can work on. The reader can literally learn a few principles relative to themselves and begin to make communication changes to improve that day!
Vaishakhi Bharucha: We also kept in mind the pandemic scenario. Work and home boundaries were getting steadily blurred and some of the most important work conversations were now happening at home. I’d say this book is for anyone who prizes their relationships – both personal and professional – and wants to do their bit to make them more meaningful.
In your book you have touched upon some practical examples to make your conversation more meaningful and relevant. Can you touch upon one example which will light up the reader's eyes?
John Britt: When I read this question, my mind immediately went to Kindling Kindness. In the associated scenario, Linda remains kind to Karen even though she has every reason not to. When she does, the audience who witnesses her kindness is impacted deeply. Kindling Kindness is not a communication technique, but rather it is a philosophical approach to communication. It is a choice.
Vaishakhi Bharucha: My favourite (and I have yet to put it into practice with regularity!) and that is Avoid Assumptions. So many conversations go south because you have just presumed something or because you don’t mention some bits clearly or because you don’t ask the right questions. That one little shift in your communication style can make for a significant difference in your conversations.
If you could offer one piece of advice to your audience on how to improve their conversation and make it more meaningful, what would that be?
John Britt: I defer to one of our quotes in the book by George Bernard Shaw, “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
Constantly, challenge yourself to get out of your own head space and into the space of those you are communicating.
What you will need is the ability to allow yourself honest introspection. For example, when you read the scenarios and suggested action items (what you should consider starting and to stop doing) for Listen Loyally, look in the mirror and give yourself an honest appraisal. Then, take the next step and ask a trusted friend or colleague to do the same for you. And then, begin practicing those positive communication techniques and behaviours.
The principles in this book will help you do that!