The Importance of Understanding

November 6, 2020

The Importance of Understanding

Depending on who you talk to, storytelling might be considered more of an art than a science, or more of a science than an art. There are thousands of people who act as storytellers in one form or another. Some take a very structured and formulaic approach, others let emotion guide the way. While each angle has its pros and cons, I believe it’s imperative to cover both. Maybe even more important to not be pulled between the two.

My approach can be summed up in a single word, understanding. Unfortunately, that IS NOT a popular sentiment these days. In fact, I would argue that now is an extremely divisive period for our country. It seems more difficult than ever to share your opinion, especially when it comes to politics. Well, surprisingly to some (and unsurprisingly to others) the key to great storytelling and a respectful society may just be the same thing.

I believe that setting the right intention before entering any collaboration, discussion or human interaction is key. By placing an emphasis on understanding, you automatically set yourself down the path of truth. No matter how much any of us want to believe that we have the overwhelming propensity to be right, it’s my experience that truth lies in the grey area. It’s only through proper communication that we find the real answer. So, it goes without saying that proper communication can’t happen when one party comes to the table with their mind already made up and their ears already closed.

Thankfully, advertising is rarely ever that combative. However, “understanding” is still extremely important. When a client hires BLM, they expect us to help tell their story. They know what’s important about their brand and it’s our job to listen. When we understand the ins and outs of their business, only then can we extrapolate their essence. Only then can we explore the intricacies of their message and project those fine details for the world to see.

The same rules apply to writing. If a writer blows through an assignment without first understanding the subject matter, the result will be painfully horrendous. The first and most important step when taking on an assignment is understanding. Asking questions, listening to answers, collecting visual cues and making notes. Oftentimes, I’ll dissect and organize the subject matter just to synthesize the information. Of course, this takes time. But, these are the extra, crucial and necessary steps we all need to take to understand the data that already exists. After all, what kind of decision can you really make without collecting all info available?

When you boil down the purpose of an advertising agency, we are paid, professional communicators. We create clear, concise and powerful messages for a living. We are beholden to the rules of understanding. In order to efficiently do our jobs, we must stop, listen and take the time to understand another point of view. Like so many things in life, once you find a universal truth, it shows up all in avenues. Legendary Japanese warrior and philosopher, Miyamoto Mushashi said it best… “Know the way broadly and you will see it in all things.”

The Bottom Line is…No matter what you do or who you’re doing it with, always take time to understand their point of view. Who knows how many issues could be more efficiently solved if we were all willing to do so. I’d bet my bottom dollar that we wouldn’t be in the political mess we are today if more people placed importance on understanding. Time has continually proven that many of the world’s largest conflicts have been caused by miscommunications. So, why is it taking us so long to learn? Well, that’s an entirely different blog topic… But, a good first step is to never enter a collaboration or conversation with a predefined view or agenda. Always take the time to listen, learn and understand things just a little bit deeper.