Exploring Life’s Most Important Skill.

In my humble opinion, the single most important life-skill is communication.

So get to work on yours.

The end.

*How great would it be if I could write posts as short as that and still have the desired impact?

Make a statement, provide some instruction and then wrap it up.

All in under twenty words.

Succinct, specific and no fluff.

Imagine the time I’d save?

Waddya mean, you need more info?

Why can’t you work with those two sentences?

You guys are so demanding (is that a label) and high-maintenance (and another).

My experience tells me that people who master the skill of communication, to a large extent, master many of the complexities of life.

The people stuff anyway.

And of course, the people stuff is probably the biggest part.

The end.

Again.

Seeya tomorrow.

Oh all right, I’ll continue.

But I wanna raise.

Yes, it’s a big statement (not the raise one… the communication one) but I believe it to be true.

Communication has a huge impact on virtually every aspect of our life.

Friendships, marriage, career, education, conflict resolution, teaching our kids, expressing our feelings, negotiating problems and of course, the mountain of ‘general life stuff’ we contend with on a daily basis.

Yet the truth is that most of us don’t consciously work at becoming more effective communicators.

We tell ourselves we do.

But we don’t actually work (in a strategic, logical, practical manner) at developing the skill.

We just stumble along and ‘hope’ we’ll accidentally get better.

Dumb plan.

Observe most people over a long period of time and they will typically use the same communication style forever, no matter how effective or ineffective that style is.

They’re defensive, they’re aggressive, they’re confrontational, they’re arrogant, they’re condescending, they don’t listen… they do a whole buncha stuff which ultimately equals bad communication.

I’ve watched people have the same stupid arguments, over the same stupid issues, with the same stupid people… only to produce the same outcome (frustration, anger, pain, terrible relationships) for years.

And while some of us are clever and articulate, we’re also crap communicators (at least in some situations and circumstances). Don’t assume that a large vocabulary or eloquent speech equates to effective communication.

It doesn’t.

Effective communication has little or nothing to do with the size of your vocabulary.

Or your academic background.

I personally know many people who are both clever and articulate, yet often struggle to communicate a simple message in certain situations.

He (yep, let’s pick on the blokes) can run a multi-million company but he can’t communicate with his teenage kids.

And the truth is, he doesn’t make the time or effort.

He doesn’t work at communicating more effectively with his kids.

But he makes himself feel better by telling his wife that everything he does is for her and them.

Sure it is, Pinocchio.

Your kids don’t need more toys ya big tool, they need a hug.

They need an investment of your time and attention.

They need you to listen.

Hey Stupid! Learn to communicate with your kids, wife, parents.. those who are (allegedly) the most important things in your life.

I’m not very good at many things but the one thing which I have passionately and consciously worked at developing over the years is my communication skills.

Many times I have been in a situation where I’ve almost been out of my depth and my ability to communicate (some might say bullshit… so not fair) has dragged me over the line.

Knowing how to engage and connect with people is invaluable.

Different people.

Different attitudes.

Different personalities.

Different age groups.

Different situations.

They may all require a different communication style.

A different approach.

A question I ask myself twenty times a day is this:

“How do I need to communicate with this person, in this situation, at this point in time to create the best possible outcome for everyone?”

If that question is your starting point, you’ll start to see things change quickly.

I know that while one person will respond to Drill Sgt. Harper, another will start crying and assume the foetal position with the same approach. I’ve had to discover what works best for each individual and learn to communicate accordingly.

When I am looking to employ a new trainer (which I have done hundreds of times over the years), I look for an ability to communicate over qualifications and knowledge base.

Yes, I want the quals and the knowledge but without doubt, the best trainers (doctors, sales people, teachers, managers, coaches, etc..) are the best communicators.

Gimme a bloke (or a chick) with a PhD and an IQ of 200 who can’t connect with people… no value to me.

So wadda we do wrong and how can we change?

1) We don’t (really) listen. We merely wait for a gap in the flow of conversation so we can tell them how it really is. We forget people’s names six seconds after we’ve been introduced because we’re not really in the moment; not really listening.

When you’re talking with someone, be present; don’t be elsewhere.

Simple but effective.

Maintain eye contact, use their name.

2) We criticise. Hey Captain Perfecto… don’t find fault, find solutions. Find a positive. Remember that one time when you made a mistake? It was the 80’s wasn’t it?

3) We don’t apologise when we should. If you want to create a better connection with someone and improve the quality of your communication instantly.. give them a heart-felt “I’m sorry” when it’s appropriate. Genuine humility is one of the most attractive and engaging qualities but some of us work very hard to avoid it.

4) We talk over the top of others. Want an instant social and emotional disconnection? Then master the skill of interruption. I have a friend who has an acute case of “but-wait-till-you-hear-my-story-itis”. We know you love the sound of your voice but seriously…..

5) We talk ‘at’ people, rather than ‘with’ them. You don’t like being lectured to, why would anyone else?

6) We pressure, manipulate, coerce. Good way to create resentment not connection.

7) We don’t read the (very obvious) non verbal communication. We’ve all heard the ‘communication is 93% non-verbal’ stat… yet we continue to ignore the signs. If you want to know how someone really feels… talk less, watch more.

8) We don’t understand that different communication styles work (are necessary, in fact) for different people. If you’re determined to be a crap communicator, use the same approach with everyone.

Your Homework: Being as you’re all about learning, here’s your chance.

In the next 48 hours try something different (from a communication perspective)… with that person (you know who).

And I don’t mean some pissy, token, half-assed attempt… I mean really different.

If you wanna create a different dynamic / result / rapport / relationship… then do different.

Same produces same.

You know that.

Good communication is the cornerstone of healthy, productive, rewarding relationships… and considering that we spend the majority of our waking hours around other people, perhaps it’s a skill that we should consciously and practically work at developing.

I think so, Grasshoppers.

* Let me know how you go, your thoughts