Moderating Communication

Six focus groups, six people in each. While there were often people who agreed with others in their own group, at times my head was spinning from the different perspectives. Sometimes it felt like there were far more than 36 total viewpoints over the last two days.

In our tiny room among a myriad of twinkling, high-rise buildings with employees still visibly buzzing inside them even at this late hour, our little mission seems so tiny and insignificant. We’re not saving lives, not changing the world, not inventing anything. We’re merely listening and figuring out how best to communicate the message we ultimately want to convey.

Through the observation glass from our darkened back room, six subjects in front of me are chatting with the moderator about their opinions and thoughts. The windows in their room reveal the city outside. It makes me think that if our small corner of this particular office building can hold so many points of view and yield so many different takeaways, imagine what we’d get from the six other people in the office that’s visible directly across the street from us.

And then what if six more people were in the office to the left of them, plus six more to the right of them, then six more still in the office above them and another six in the office below them. What if, for every office that’s visible, more people could be seen sharing their thoughts, ideas, criticisms and opinions.

What if, even within the interior offices, more people were sharing theirs?

My point is that we are made up of an entire planet where we all have opinions; some of us live in parts of the world where we are more free to share them than those living elsewhere.

Others of us are so vocal that we’re called to change a nation, and we enter into the world of politics.

Some are educators at heart and are called to teach. Or to raise children.

Some find the limelight and showcase their voice on daytime talk shows.

We’re also people who, while we have our own opinions, also process things in our own, unique-to-me sort of way. And despite how clear we advertising types think we make a message, interpretation is subject to the processing of others.

Politicians’ words are subject to the same.

As are the words of our loved ones.

And friends.

Never before has the potential for error been higher. It increases every day as our attention is more and more split, whether due to the latest technology or a busy schedule that spreads us too thin, and with each new person who enters this world. The stakes are high for our communication to be direct and to the point.

I marvel at the role our moderator takes with each group: moderator-turned-psychologist is no easy feat. He manages to get to the why, the how and the “what if” in a way that sheds new light on our testing materials with each passing statement. So tonight I am thankful for those 36 individuals who freely gave their time and their opinions for the good of our campaign, and for the realization that with so many types of input coming at us at all times, and in so many different tonalities, communication with those that mean the most to us is a skill worth honing — and there’s nothing tiny or insignificant about that at all.


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