Engage – what a deceptively simple word! Today, we use it casually in business. We want to “engage followers.” Engagement in marketing has become a measure of adept messaging – a METRIC.
But the word “engage” may hold much more power – and intention – than we realize!
For more than two centuries, the term in English (and French & proto-German before that) meant to offer one’s word – or life – as assurance. A binding by oath, a pledge, a vow, a bond.
So what path did the verb “engage” take from there to here? And what does it have to tell us?
During the 17th century, the word begins to be used to define other words – each of which describes an immutable attachment of one person to another.
It comes to indicate an encounter between people that binds them together physically, financially, or spiritually – for better or worse.
By the early 1700s, one “engages” in fighting, combat, and battle. We “engage” in bets, business and employment. And, of course, in marital unions. Even when “engaging” in conversation, the word indicates an intermingling of lives. An “enmeshing.”
Then, like so much else during the Industrial Revolution, it takes on mechanical connotations. We “engage” the gears. Later, we “engage” the clutch of a car. And my beloved Star Trek captains “engage” the warp drive 🙂.
One might assume today’s engagement-as-metric is heir to that mechanical sense. To “engage” on social media indicates clicking a Like button, pushing play on a video, or commenting with an emoji or a few quick words.
But what if we endeavored to think of engaging our audiences as something much closer to the word’s origin?
What if ‘to engage’ became for us an _intentional_ encounter? One rife with the potential to intermingle the lives of the humans on both sides of the screen. An entreaty, an invitation to … well, bond!
That’s the word, bird.