As a young boy, I was fascinated with performance. For a good number of years, I regularly prayed that God would bring me talent — singing, playing an instrument, sports. It really didn’t matter what, I simply wanted to be recognized for something. In answer to my prayers, God wiped out my singing voice (I was a remarkable soprano until puberty), provided me with a notable void in musical ability (although I did do a little drumming over the years), and made me short, slow, and generally uncoordinated. Seriously, I couldn’t have had a richer blessing.
As I dealt with the disappointments of non-achievement in those areas I felt certain would bring me fame, I was allowed to stretch and exercise some other gifts. Reading, writing, speaking. I still longed to be a performer, however. And, I believed that my niche would be humor. Back in the day, many of the main-line comedians produced clean acts that were recorded on long-playing (LP) records (that’s vinyl, for those of you who are just now discovering the ways of the past). I would sit and listen to these folks for hours and memorize their routines.
I did realize that I would go nowhere simply by doing their routines. The gift of the comedian was her or his ability to see life and see the humor that naturally bubbles up and to tell their personal stories. It was this experience that propelled me into the world of storytelling.
I never really became a master of storytelling. But, I did discover something important as I made the attempt.
Basically, to be a strong communicator, you have to balance the attributes of patience and assertiveness. You have to know when to say something — not too soon and not too late. In conflict management, we talk about the importance of timeliness in terms of “ripeness.” If a conflict is not ripe — if it’s green, no one wants to deal with it. If it’s over-ripe, there’s not much you can do with it.
Communication is like that. How often have you heard it said that a warning was given, but it went unheeded because it wasn’t timely? And we all know that a warning given after the fact, has no value.
For communication to be valuable, it must be timely. And that timeliness requires us to be vigilant, patient, and assertive.