You know the scene well: hundreds of families reunite in a sepia-toned montage, while the ministerial voice of Hugh Grant tells us: “Whenever I get gloomy at the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport.”
“If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love, actually, is all around.”
Confession time: Love Actually is one of my favourite films. It’s outdated in places, certainly naïve about the realities of love and relationships, yet every Christmas it lands at the top of my family’s watch list. Why? Because it’s about a bunch of human beings trying (and often failing) to communicate with one another. And frankly, that’s what good movies are all about.
Communication is everything. It’s the essence of the human experience, yet despite its necessity, many of us would happily admit that we aren’t all that good at reaching out to those important to us – be they colleagues, clients, family or friends.
So, just because it’s Christmas, I want to tell you why love, actually, is all about communication.
No matter how it comes out, saying it is what matters
One of the most endearing stories Love Actually presents is that of Jamie and Aurelia, played by the hapless Colin Firth and subtle Lucia Moniz.
After finding out his wife is having an affair with his brother, Jamie retreats to the south of France to work on a book, where he and his housekeeper fall in love – despite barely knowing a word of each other’s languages.
While their communication is mostly made up of cluttered sentences, cringeworthy hand gestures, and quiet drives to the train station every evening, the point is: they try.
If you’re at the start of your journey with a particular line of communication – be it forming a relationship with new clients, broadening your team, or even something more personal – progress is more important than perfection.
In the film, Jamie and Aurelia eventually learn each other’s languages, and after a clunky-yet-romantic marriage proposal in Jamie’s best Portuguese (“I come here with a view to asking you to marriage me”), live happily ever after.
The message here is simple: if you’re unsure, simply reaching out is better than nothing. Your clients, colleagues, and loved ones will all benefit from a more communicative version of you, so start working on your comms, however shakily, now.
It’s never too late to make the first move
Another love story in the film’s complex web is that of Sarah and Karl, colleagues who’ve been pining for each other, unaware of the other’s feelings, for two long years.
Actually, to be precise, Sarah’s been in love with Karl for “two years, seven months, three days and, I suppose, an hour and 30 minutes”.
At their office Christmas party, Karl makes his long overdue move, asking Sarah to dance. It’s a small gesture, but it lights a spark – and soon the two are, let’s say, doing more than slow-dancing to Norah Jones.
While their love story is sadly not a long-lasting one, Karl’s bravery could teach you something: it’s never too late to reach out.
If you have always struggled to effectively communicate with clients or colleagues, you can still forge meaningful connections now.
Go ahead, make the first move. It’s Christmas.
Know when enough is enough
Of course, there are some storylines in Love Actually that, in my opinion, speak less to romance and more to creepiness. (Yes, Hugh Grant, I’m looking at you. Get it together. You’re the prime minister, for God’s sake.)
In another instance, in the case of Mark and Juliet, things are also a little complicated. Juliet is happily married to Peter. However Mark, Peter’s best friend in the world, is hopelessly in love with her.
In case you’ve not seen the film, I’ll spoil it for you: in an effort to put the matter to bed once and for all, Mark shows up at Juliet’s door with a stack of placards and admits his feelings via the written word – all while Peter unknowingly watches the telly upstairs.
I’m not a fan of this moment. I feel like shaking Mark by shoulders and shouting, “Listen, pal. Enough is enough. She already knows you’re in love with her because you spent her entire wedding filming close-ups of her face. Give it a rest.”
Because let’s be honest, it’s okay when a relationship, professional or personal, isn’t meant to be.
If there are obvious reasons not to overstep that boundary, it’s probably best to leave it altogether. Don’t let your growth mindset dupe you into flogging dead horses – chase the relationships that can actually bring value, and leave the rest behind.
Sometimes, actions speak louder than words
One of the sweetest storylines Love Actually has to offer is that of Sam and Joanna.
At just 11 years old, Sam has fallen deeply in love with his American schoolmate, and plans to impress her at the Christmas concert – not by reading her a love poem or writing a letter, but by learning to play the drums.
You see, Joanna is a singer. Her whole family loves music. She’s the star of the Christmas show. Learning this, Sam decides to act, not speak.
Although these kids are young and foolish, they’re onto something here. If you talk the talk, you’ve also got to walk the walk, which means putting in the time to learn what the recipient of your communication wants and needs.
Indeed, the power of acting on your words is palpable in business relationships as well as personal ones.
If you’re a business owner, it’s likely you pride yourself on providing a “bespoke” service; if you don’t take the time to get to know your clients and act on your promises, they’ll realise your bark is bigger than your bite.
Alternatively, if you can act on your commitments in a way that adds unique value to their life, you are more than likely to forge a strong bond.
You see love is, actually, all about communication. Get it right, and you’ll have the trust, longevity, spark, and meaningful action that come along with any healthy relationship – personal or professional.
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