I discovered jazz when I was a teenager. I used to sneak into an after hours club called the Jazz Alley at Main and Broadway in Vancouver. I always felt I learned as much from jazz as I did in school. Mind you, that may have been because I was dozing in class.
One of the best jazz musicians around today is Wynton Marsalis so I follow him on Twitter. That’s how I found this Facebook note he wrote about a music class he taught for young kids.
As I read the five main issues Marsalis taught the students, I thought about how well they apply to the craft of communication. Here they are with my interpretation;
- Play in balance – Good communication, just like jazz, is a balance between listening and speaking. Messages are more effective when we pay attention to how our audience receives them.
- Listen to the best of the style of music you’re playing – There are so many great examples of companies and groups that get what good communication means. We can learn a lot by listening to them.
- Listen and respond with empathy – This is a key in any crisis situation. It means that we must listen to concerns openly. Good communication strategies are flexible enough to respond to public mood. The best response is always a sincere one and if people have been adversely affected, we must show empathy.
- Understand the function of your part – Sometimes it’s not about you and attempts to communicate when you’ve nothing meaningful to add will stand out like an out-of-tune instrument. We communicate best when we have something useful to say.
- Feel the lift of the swing rhythm – Stories sometimes take on a life of their own and we can “feel the lift” as the public dialogue grows. As in jazz, we want to stay in time and respond to the beat of the story.