A Matter Of Engagement

This photo has nothing to do with this blog post. I just needed a nice image to go with it.

This photo has nothing to do with this blog post. I just needed a nice image to go with it.

Part of what I do in communications requires making stuff that is engaging. I have to create things that are accessible, easy to understand – and most of all engaging. That single word can mean the difference between something being effective or falling flat. If something is engaging it’s easy to digest and understand. It resonates, sticks in the mind, and communicates its message quickly and simply. Just like a catchy earworm, something that is really engaging hits its target, becomes entangled with it, takes it on a journey and leaves a powerful memento long after it’s gone. That funny advertisement is engaging. That book you just can’t put down. That gripping action movie. That charismatic politician with the world-class speech writers.

People can be engaging too. Ever get stuck into a conversation with someone and come away wanting more? Someone with whom the dialogue just flows and the interaction sparkles? Ever meet someone who’s a fountain of knowledge on a particular topic, that you find simply fascinating? That you could listen to for hours?

How often, though, have you turned your back on something because it wasn’t engaging? That book that you couldn’t get more than a few chapters into? That movie that seemed to be going nowhere? That person who was just so dull you couldn’t even pretend to be interested?

The problem with engagement is that it lays full responsibility at the feet of the other person – the film director or the author or the other half of the conversation. When something isn’t engaging it gives us an excuse not to bother. As I’ve written about previously, the problem with excuses is that they give us a reason to do nothing. An escape route from responsibility. When something isn’t engaging it gives our limited attention span a way out. We get to walk out of the cinema because the film wasn’t engaging. We don’t commit to the task of reading that book because the author’s work wasn’t engaging. We avoid that person because they aren’t engaging.

And suddenly instead of avoiding something because we can’t be bothered or we're lazy, we have a much more legitimate excuse. We have permission not to make the effort.

But how much of life are we missing out on because we deem it not to be engaging enough? How much knowledge? How many experiences? How much enrichment are our lives lacking simply because that wealth of knowledge that lives ‘out there’ is not engaging?

What if we were to take responsibility for our engagement? What if we were to make the effort to actively engage with those things that we previously dismissed as simply not engaging? What could we learn if we sat down with that dull person and found out what made them tick? What if we could explore the vast wealth of knowledge that exists ‘out there’ that may not seem initially engaging, but if you dig deep enough, and assimilate enough of it, could give you all kinds of skills and new ways of seeing?

When we choose to actively engage we have the potential to be better, to learn and experience more. And that, in turn, will enrich us. By subjugating our need to be entertained for the benefits of growing, learning, and improving, we have the potential to grow in every way. As the saying goes, ‘there is great power to be found doing the thing you don’t want to do.”

Learning to engage with the things that might not seem engaging is a skill that opens up new dimensions. There’s a parallel universe out there that most people cannot see because it’s not engaging. And when we choose to engage we are exploring depths of reality that we never knew existed. That boring person becomes fascinating. That dull textbook becomes a portal to a new world of learning. It takes practice and patience, but like a muscle, the more you practice the easier it becomes.

And after a while you realise that you’ve developed a superpower. And you have become engaging.