Last night, I finally put down the novel, The Finkler Question?. Winner of the 2010 Man Booker fiction prize, it is a “wry, devastating examination of the complexities of identity and belonging, love, and grief written through the lens of contemporary Judaism.” I started and stopped this book three times before finally admitting defeat. The voice is too masculine and most of the cultural references or allusions go right over my head. Though I gave myself permission years ago to stop reading books that weren’t capturing my attention, I hung in because, well, it was a Booker prize winner after all and if the literary elite endorse it, shouldn’t I?
With sad relief, I put down “Finkler” and rustled through the stack of books by my bed. I pulled out Talk Sense, a communications book written by leadership consultant Barry Jentz. I’ve never heard of Barry Jentz, nor do I know where I got this book . Frankly, if I were in a book store, I would walk right by. It is published in a 9×12 workbook style with absolutely no visual design appeal. (Sorry Barry… none.)
I started reading and imagine my surprise; it is engaging, insightful, coherent, relevant. It’s communications theory packaged in stories and case studies intelligently chosen to illustrate theories about how people make sense of the world. He is an intelligent storyteller, theorist, and sense maker. All wrapped up in one handy dandy 9×12 workbook. I am as delighted by the book as with the tale of my evening’s reading adventure.
And so, dear speaker, the moral of my story is this: personal meaning and resonance trumps prestige every time. We can all be seduced by what “the powers that be” have to say, or what we think we “should” be saying in our speech, but personal resonance should be the trusty compass by which we find our voice and communicate our meaning in the world.