The Recipe for Genuine Communication

by Jared Mabry, Chief Information Officer at HCA Healthcare UK

In the December 1960 issue of The Atlantic, Benjamin E. Mays, an American Baptist minister and civil rights leader, wrote an incredible article titled, “A Plea for Straight Talk Between the Races.” Within this beautifully written piece, Mays clearly articulates that even with the backdrop of set backs to race relations in the United States, it is open, honest, and sincere communication that is key to progress for the civil rights movement and to bridge the divides of the national discourse at that time. Simply put, “Honest communication is built on truth and integrity and upon respect of the one for the other.” 

I will be the first to admit that after reading and reflecting on Mays’ article in The Atlantic, I couldn’t help but think the core message around the way we communicate as a society resonates just as clearly today as it did in 1960. In fact, it’s terrifying to think that 61 years after this article was written, in a time where people have more mechanisms to communicate with one another and with a broader reach than at any point previously in human history, we are still falling into the same traps. While a lot is being said every single day, how much of it is built on truth and integrity? How much of it is built upon a foundation of mutual respect? 

While this topic echoes across both our personal and professional lives, let’s take a moment to focus on how we communicate in the work place. In my blog post introducing Genuine Communication, I focused on the idea that communication has to have meaning to both the sender and the receiver in order to have value. But let’s break that down one step further. What gives a message meaning? We only have to go as far as the wise words of Benjamin E. Mays to know that honest, meaningful communication needs three ingredients:

  1. Truth - Genuine leaders speak from the heart. If you spend all of your time crafting a message that tries to play to every angle, you’ll come to find that not only has the truth been lost but so has your meaning.

  2. Integrity - Genuine leaders speak from principle. If you have to sacrifice your principles in order to get a point across, is it a point worth making? 

  3. Respect - Genuine leaders speak with empathy. As you read your messages to others, read them as if they were coming from someone else to you. How would you feel or react? Let that empathy always be your guide. 

Now let’s bring the two ideas together. Communication has to be meaningful in order to have value and meaningful communication must be formed on the basis of truth, integrity, and respect. That’s the secret to genuine communication. 

I challenged you in my previous blog post to look back at all of the communication you had sent to colleagues, team members, and peers over the past month and reflect on how many of them you actually felt added value through having a shared sense of meaning. Now that you have the rest of the recipe in how to build truly genuine communications, go back and take a second look. How many of those same communications you felt had a shared sense of meaning also had a foundation of truth, integrity, and respect? I bet the ones you felt had the most impact certainly did. Now ask yourself, what would happen if all of my communications delivered that same effect? There’s no reason they can’t if you prioritize on making them genuine. 

Benjamin E. Mays inspired, taught, and mentored a generation of young leaders like Martin Luther King Jr, Julian Bond, and Jackie Robinson who through their own achievements changed our world for the better. Through his words, actions, and convictions Mays is an amazing example of Genuine Leadership and continues to be an inspiration to us all.