Are we windows?

Originally published February 2009 in the Dickinson County News

I was reading an excerpt from a Dale Carnegie book the other night that shed new light on a familiar idea.

It was, as usual, one particular quote that caught my attention: “A good window does not call attention to itself. It merely lets in the light. A good speaker is like that.”

Carnegie was writing about the ability to give a speech about a subject and call more attention to the matter being spoken about than to oneself, the speaker.

It’s a philosophy we use daily as journalists. Outside of the opinion page, we want you to read unbiased stories about local government decisions, community leaders and humanitarian trips. We want you to look through us – the writers, the “windows” – and see the stories.

The same is true of a speaker talking about a subject we hope to learn about – whether it be how to appropriately fold a flag, how to assess the risk of an investment, or how to properly shake someone’s hand during an introduction. The message, hopefully, is so effectively communicated that we remember the points of the speech and not the faults of the communicator.

The idea is one that seemed to come without much thought, until I read Carnegie’s words: “A good window does not call attention to itself. It merely lets in the light.”

I remember as a child when I blocked someone’s view of the television, they would tell me “You make a better door than a window.” Of course, their message to me was “Anitra, you’re in my way. I can’t see.”

How often are we blocking someone’s clear view by being a better door than a window? How much more often could we “let in the light” by being more effective communicators? By being more open minded decision makers? Or simply by being honest?

Now, I’ll admit that being compared to a window isn’t always the most glorious comparison – Who wants to be looked “through” after all?

Maybe we don’t always need to be windows, but isn’t it a fun idea to believe that you might be the window that helps someone find the light? A new truth? Some valuable knowledge? Or their lost hope?

The best windows are the ones you don’t notice.

But the value of any window – literally or figuratively – is what we one can see on the other side BECAUSE of its presence.