Stories from the Circus: More Than Words Connects Us

We all know somebody who has an idea that the rest of us think is crazy.  For some, it is opening a business with an innovative new concept.  Others, it may be a hiking expedition through the Himalayas.  Whatever the adventure may be, the hardest part is stepping out of our comfort zone and jumping in feet first.  

Well, in 2006, I did just that -- I gathered my things and ran away to join the circus.  This circus just happened to be all the way in Switzerland, and I was hired to be their ringmaster.  As you might expect, this turned out to be an amazing life changing experience.  I got to work across 51 cities in over 300 shows with an amazing international cast of performers from Canada, Poland, France, Germany, Finland, Morocco, and Spain.

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With so many different languages spoken within the cast, the success of our collaboration relied heavily upon the knowledge of our craft and the ability to communicate with each other. My job as ringmaster was to take our energy and transform it into a form that each audience could understand. I had to convey emotion – excitement, sadness, joy – as well as transition each piece into an organic flow, all without the ability to use my native language of English.  

As I got a new notch in my belt with each passing show, I started to gain an understanding of how much more there is to communication than just the words we say and the language that we speak.  Just as important are the underlying layers that include our body language, our energy, and our intentions.  

All of those things create a message, and the coolest thing is that I captured this new understanding and applied it to my everyday life without even realizing it! For example, when I went to the baker, I had to explain to him which loaf of bread I wanted – all without knowing how to speak Swiss German proficiently.  

Each question had to be formulated in my mind and expressed through my actions. This allowed me to take a mental review of how I was communicating with people through verbal and non-verbal skills in order to improve the quality of my personal and professional relationships.   

With all of that in mind, ask yourself this: How are you interacting with people on a daily basis? Are you being crystal clear with your intentions?  Is the tambour of your voice in rhythm with your body language? How can you use this new awareness to your advantage; to communicate clearly, deepen your relationships, and build a better connection with the people you work with?