Tag Archives: communication

We Need To Be More QRP.

By Chris Warren.

Have you ever been at a party where one obnoxious loudmouth imposes himself on everyone and monopolizes the whole event, and the next day you can recall almost nothing he said? Meanwhile at the same party, there is also the composed and articulate man or woman who does not prattle constantly and is not heard across the room, yet always seems to have an attentive group around them? Those lucky enough to be in this person’s company will remember the experience in great detail, sometimes years later. That quiet, well-spoken party guest knows interpersonal communications. They know how to QRP.

Everyone, including those who never of heard the term QRP prior to reading this article, would benefit from applying its spirit to their own interpersonal communication. In the highly technical hobby of amateur radio (ham radio), there is a subspecialty known as QRP operating, which is radio geek lingo for worldwide communications with very low transmitter power levels. “Low power” is generally understood to be less than 10 watts (less than a laptop computer). By comparison, most amateur radio sets run at 100 watts. Some can go to over a thousand watts, and commercial radio stations average between 5000-50,000 watts. When properly done, these tiny low level signals can compete with the thousand watt-plus boomers.

The philosophy of QRP radio states that what one lacks in brute force can more than be made up for with careful timing and the adroit use of the limited resources at hand. In a non-radio scenario that could mean waiting for the loud mouth to pause and then dropping a well thought out comment. You won’t get to say as much, but your comments will be noticed without your having to yell. It’s better to speak quietly for a minute and have it remembered than to shout for an hour and have no one care.

Walk through the busy downtown of any large city and you will eventually come across a street preacher. They stand on a corner and in a very loud voice attempt to sell their religion. I’m pretty sure none of these guys have ever scored a single convert among the thousands of passers by. The preachers may have good intentions and bring a lively vibe to the street, but the low yield of new followers exposes their lack of finesse. Meanwhile, the missionary who lives like an ordinary man among his flock, shows them what a good neighbor is, socializes with and befriends them, and relates to them one on one or in small groups will collect a bounty of believers. I know a guy who actually does this. He speaks and acts like a normal person, never dominating or raising his voice. You’ll never see him yelling on a street corner. Everyone around him, even those who don’t subscribe to his faith, respects him and pays attention to his words. He knows interpersonal communications. He knows how to QRP.interpersonal communication

I once worked with a guy who was something of a hothead. One day in a moment of poor judgement, he aggressively approached the boss and made a loud scene in front of everyone about something trivial. The boss just stood there and let him carry on and on with his rant. When he finally sputtered out, the boss calmly replied in a completely normal voice, “I refuse to deal with you when you’re mad and out of control. When you decide to calm down, come see me in my office.” She then turned around and walked away. They did ultimately resolve the issue in a way that was satisfactory to both sides. She had a command of interpersonal communication. The boss knew how to QRP.

Both in radio and in life there appropriate moments to be powerful and loud. QRP is not suitable at all times. Unfortunately, a lot of people can’t discern the difference. They do not throttle down their loud mouths even when doing so would improve interpersonal communication. The quiet little voices are signals of wisdom and self control in a world of overbearing noise and disorder.

Daniel Explains Himself.

By: Chris Warren.

In 1973 the end of the Vietnam War was near after going for ten violent years. As thousands of soldiers came home, many were welcomed back as heroes, while others were the target of high profile protests and derided as willing conspirators in a hugely unpopular war. A common attitude among returning veterans of the time was that they did not want attention of any kind, negative or positive. They just wanted to go back to their ordinary civilian lives and be left alone.

Also in 1973, singer Elton John released a song called Daniel. It became a hit, and is still very popular over forty years later. It’s about a disabled vet who wants to leave his difficult experience behind and find a quiet place to be himself. The story is told from the perspective of Daniel’s younger brother. It does not self-identify as a “Vietnam song,” yet it softly describes the sentiments of nearly every returning combat veteran. In just a few minutes, Elton John encapsulates the thoughts of so many who have endured so much. Daniel, the character, is not just one person.


Due to the political climate and the proliferation of recorded music and radio, more music came out of the Vietnam era than any war before it. Very little of it was positive. Someone having no prior knowledge of the war could listen to the music of the time and easily conclude that it was a very divisive period for the United States. There was a lot of frustration, disappointment, anger. The protest songs were the loudest voice in a divided nation.

The voice that was not being heard was that of the soldiers sitting in mud pits watching their buddies get killed by the hundreds. No one was singing to comfort them or give them a cultural outlet for what they were going through. That would not come for another three decades. In 2003 the war in Iraq was going full blast and country singer Toby Keith released the single American Soldier. It is a story about military guy who, like his fictional comrade-in-arms Daniel, wants to go about his life with no fanfare or attention. Unlike Elton John’s approach, the meaning of Toby Keith’s composition requires no guesswork.

Two songs released thirty years apart that take widely diverging paths to essentially the same conclusion. So what else is different between Elton’s and Toby’s interpretations? The answer is not about two individual songs. The Iraq war was never truly embraced by the civilian public, but unlike Vietnam no one held anything against the men and women sent to do the dirty work. We as Americans grew up a lot in those three decades. We learned to see the difference between those who order the war and those who actually fight it. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars were the catalyst for dozens of popular patriotic songs that would have never been conceived in the time of Vietnam.

If music is a reflection of the culture that created it, then something transformative happened between Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan. Protest songs still exist today but do not attract anywhere near the attention they received in the 1960s and 1970s. Pro-American songs (mostly country) consistently hit the top of the charts and are used for TV commercials, sporting events, and political rallies.

It is said the power of music is that it can make us feel something. I think that is only half of the equation: We also create music because of how we feel. Many years after Vietnam ended, Elton John’s song writing partner Bernie Taupin explained that he got the idea for Daniel in 1972 after reading a magazine article about how Vietnam vets who came home wanted nothing more than to fade into normal life. It effected Taupin so much that he turned that feeling into a song that is still commonly played nearly two generations later.

So does music give us feeling, or do we put our feelings into music? This chicken-or-egg argument misses the point. The answer is: Both. Music is a mode of communication. The artist says something through their song with the intention of influencing his or her audience to form an idea or opinion that might not have occurred otherwise. The musician wants to get inside our heads. That is the entire purpose of any art.

What sets music apart from other art forms is its universal appeal and staying power. Very few people attend live theater productions or art galleries, but almost everyone likes some form of music and probably owns recordings. And long after playgoers and art gallery junkies have left the building, digital technology gives music fans the advantage of being able to listen favorite songs any time they want.

The idea for this blog article came out of a story I’d heard that Daniel was actually about Elton John’s real-life brother and how much it hurt Elton when Daniel had to go live in the warmer climate of Spain for health reasons. It did not take much googling to figure out what I had been told about this song was 100% urban legend. As I read further, the true back story of Daniel came alive. The reality was far more compelling than the legend.

The Elton John/Bernie Taupin team is not known for making strong political or social statements in their music. Heck, they are not even Americans! Yet they were moved to create a quiet acknowledgement of what Vietnam vets were going through. It sparked my interest enough to study their art more closely and discover for myself what they were trying to say. Over my lifetime I must have heard Daniel a million times and didn’t think much of it. Now that song will never sound the same to me the again. Well played, Elton: You got inside my head.