The Fourth of July is upon us. Without question, that means it’s time for baseball, barbeques, family and friend get-togethers, fireworks, parades . . . and for yours truly as much beach volleyball as these aging (ahem!) bones and muscles can stand. I like to think that our founding fathers would find comfort in the fact the country still celebrates “Independence Day” in ways that are distinctly American. And I like to think that we, as their beneficiaries, take a few moments each year to reflect on of their long ago actions. I know I do.
While July 4 has been a Federal holiday only since 1941, the tradition of celebrating Independence Day dates back to when the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
Have you ever read the Declaration of Independence?
If not, you should. It really is an amazing document, ranging from lofty language that to this day tugs at the aspirations of many the world over (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”) to the specific and somewhat matter-of-fact grievances of a people oppressed by the then “present King of Britain.”
What strikes me is how the Declaration truly connects to the hearts and minds of its intended audience—which ranged from average colonial citizens and the colonial upper crust, to the British Monarchy and to leaders and potential allies worldwide. You could almost call the Declaration a perfect piece of political “PR” (not in the derogatory sense that political PR is often viewed these days, what with ever-present talking points and talking heads that seem to always say a lot, but really never say anything). It’s perfect political “PR” in that it truly positioned the American cause in such a way that those reading the Declaration were moved both emotionally and intellectually, making it hard for many to argue its merits and justification, a perfect melding of facts and feelings that has stood the test of time
Just think about what it took to convince the 56 who eventually signed it. Literally and figuratively, they were pledging (and I paraphrase) “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors,” putting not only themselves, but their entire families and their descendants at risk. While two of those who signed the Declaration became presidents (and three became vice presidents and 10 became members of Congress), nine signers died due to the Revolutionary War, five others were captured by the British, accused of being traitors, and tortured to death, 12 had their homes looted and burned, and two lost sons serving in the Continental Army. Certainly then, those who signed did not do so lightly. They needed the facts, but they also needed the emotional persuasion to commit to action, as did those many others who eventually took up arms and fought long and hard for independence.
While it would be impossible to liken our day-to-day communication needs with the Declaration and all it stood for back in 1776 and for what it stands today, I believe we can take a lesson from its pages to use in our own day-to-day “messaging” needs at work, at home, or even in the political arena: facts without emotions, won’t tug at heartstrings and motivate people to take action; likewise, emotions without facts, typically lead only to knee-jerk reactions and faulty decision-making. The most effective communication, and the most genuine, includes both elements.
It’s something we should keep in mind as we’re listening to the pundits on TV or when we’re telling our own customers about our particular products or services: talk to me about what’s important to me (or my family or my business) and then give me the facts, plain and simple, of why I should believe you and why I should take action. All the rest, I can decide for myself.
Do you communicate with others only on an emotional level, or are you all just fact and figures? How might you combine both aspects to become even more effective in the way you communicate?
Share your thoughts here . . . and have a Happy Fourth of July!