Confluential Truth


This communication is about communication.

Deep in the unconscious brain, chemical reactions coalesce. Impulses emerge. Enriched by neurotransmitters, modified by emotions, filtered through imagery, clothed in language and prepped for action by the cerebral cortex, a subset of impulses reaches critical mass and becomes a pure true thought.

Then, a tiny measure of thoughts is communicated. And, as Hamlet would say, “Aye, there’s the rub, ” because it is impossible to convey a message and be certain the recipient fully understands its true meaning.

Speak, write, sing, glare, smile, text, email, blog, touch, clap, scream, kiss –or communicate in any of another million ways – and the message hovers in space out of your control, waiting to be received by another person. Then it is absorbed, digested, filtered, modified and used as an elemental building block for the recipient’s unique perception of its meaning.

Imagine your message as a sphere with the purest and most intense truth radiating from its center. The recipient interprets your message and develops his or her own truth-sphere. Like the overlap in a Venn diagram, the effectiveness of communication is defined by the degree to which these unique spheres share the same truth. This overlap is the confluential truth.

Through effective communication, confluential truth proliferates and human connectedness occurs – like water molecules becoming rain. As more spheres overlap they form rivers of confluential truth. And when even more people get on board, the rivers fill oceans of immense power.

But with so many potential modes of communication where does one begin?

Simon says, “Start with ‘why.’”

In his 2009 book Start With Why – and later offered in a TED Talk ( – Simon Sinek conceptualizes effective communication as a “golden circle” with three concentric rings. The outer ring is “what,” the middle ring is “how” and the center ring is “why” (i.e. the purpose, the cause, the core belief).  Sinek contends that everyone knows what they do; that some know how they do it; but very few people know why they do what they do. Sinek’s take home message is that inspirational people communicate from the inside out; they convey what they believe. Dr. King, for example, said, “I have a dream,” not “I have a plan.”

In addition to Sinek’s concept, there are three important T’s to consider when sending a message: tone, timing and truth. The message has to be delivered in a tone that is appropriate for the setting and the personality of the recipient. Too harsh or too meek, and the information is cast into limbo. The tree falls but does not make a sound.

Timing is crucial as well. If the message goes on too long, is too brief or is delivered when the recipient is not physically or emotionally receptive, the potential for misinterpretation increases.

The requisite third T should be evident by now. Once, while prepping for a deposition, I asked my attorney how I should answer questions. He recommended telling the truth “because it is easier to remember the truth.” Unless there is truth in the message, there is no chance for effective communication.

All three T’s came together for me last week. As I briskly walked the noisy corridors of a local mall on a busy Saturday afternoon, up ahead I noticed a young person in a motorized wheelchair with her family. As she got closer and eventually passed me I recognized her as the teenage version of a little girl who had beaten a horrific infection with the help of numerous health care providers, including me. She cheated death but at the cost of three limbs. It had been years since I had seen her, and although my role in her care was peripheral by comparison, her strength, courage and positive attitude have always inspired me.

In the cacophony of that noisy mall time stood still as our eyes met. I told her who I was and how inspiring she is to me. She smiled and we hugged.

That was a moment of confluential truth.

Every day we are presented innumerable opportunities to communicate. Never take for granted this precious gift. Tone, timing and truth are all important, but truth is the foundation. The process by which an individual’s unconscious truth becomes conscious thought and can then be communicated effectively to another is among our most important functions as a species and perhaps our greatest attribute as well.

I need a hug.


Note: This was my President’s eVoice from The Greater Louisville Medical Society’s October 2013 “Louisville Medicine.”