Sharpening the skill of clear communication

What is the goal of communication? A seemingly tricky question with a remarkably simple answer: shared understanding. That’s it. It doesn’t matter whether you’re conveying something true or false, caring or cruel. The goal is that both parties understand what is being communicated.

One way to sharpen this skill is by examining the speech of people who are extremely articulate in expressing their ideas on complex topics (whether or not you agree with the content). Studying this shows that it’s more of an art than a science – it’s not always a matter of knowing more, but instead about using the most precise words that reflect your intent.

Are you someone that can learn from mistakes?

Having a victim mentality makes it unlikely you’ll be able to learn from mistakes. Victims seek (and find) all the ways in which they’ve been preyed upon rather than pursuing ways to avoid similar outcomes or circumstances in the future.

One question helps expose whether you are capable of learning from mistakes: How often do you feel you have been wronged, versus how often you have been wrong.

As the old adage goes, when the student is ready the teacher appears. And willing students are the only ones capable of learning.

Intentions matters, but…

Of course intent matters. There’s a massive difference between being intentionally insulting and accidentally offending someone. But…

Even with the best of intentions, it’s possible to be loved and not feel loved. To be supported and not feel supported. So while positive intent (or ignorance) should get us off the hook, if we care, we learn to communicate our intent better. In ways that others hear us.

The fastest way to internalize new information

Studies repeatedly show that we understand and retain a certain amount of new information when we hear it, more when we see it, and even more when we put into practice (actually do) the thing we just learned.

But by far the fastest, most reliable, long-term method for internalizing new information is to teach someone else. This is because the prerequisite for teaching others is to deconstruct and comprehend concepts well enough to repeat them in our own words.

Want to make sure you really understand something? Teach someone else.

Making huge habit changes fast

Aircrafts use most of their fuel during take-off. Starting is the most difficult part of creating new habits or making life changes.

Here’s a hack to help create a new habit: if you want to meditate start by taking only three mindful breaths every day.  Wake up just five minutes earlier.  Floss only one tooth.  Write just one paragraph of your novel. Do three push-ups.

Do this and you’ll have done the hardest part.  You’ll see that doing a bit more doesn’t burn much fuel. Most importantly, you will soon subconsciously see yourself as the kind of person who flosses, meditates, writes, exercises…

High quality questions to help you get unstuck

  • What would be ideal? (I find this to be MUCH more informative than “what do you want?” or “what would make you happy?”)
  • What one thing can I let go of such that my level of stress will be significantly reduced? 
  • Can I convert this thought or belief from shame/fear to hope/compassion? 

Dependability

Dependability is a high-ranking “soft skill” that employers, colleagues and customers desire.

When it comes to your career, there are many worthwhile investments you can make to sharpen the saw of your particular expertise. On top of this, try to cultivate a reputation for being dependable. People want to know that they can count on you, and that your word is reliable.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that so-called soft skills are not trainable. All of them are. For this particular skill, all you have to do is make sure you always do what you say.

Desires

It’s healthy to have desires, goals, and hopes for better versions of the future.  But so often we fall victim to as-soon-as syndrome, making our desires much like contracts we make with ourselves to be unhappy until we get what we want.

Defining and striving for things in line with our desires is essential.  Just be sure you’re not trading a possible future for an unmistakable now.

Negativity bias

My music has received over 50 million streams and downloads, hundreds 5-star ratings, and the kindest reviews and compliments. Yet I can recite verbatim the ruthless critique of my voice from an anonymous user 10 years ago. A decade-old review from one person.

This is negativity bias in action. We’re all susceptible to it. We too quickly forget the praise we receive and tend to highlight the cynical people and opinions.

I keep an email folder called “inspiration” where I file the kind words I’ve received from people who clearly value what I do. It helps to keep a reminder that most of the time you’re doing a stellar job.

This too shall pass

Life has ups and downs. Where you are right now, and how you feel about it, is much like a balance sheet. It’s just a snapshot of your emotional assets and liabilities for a moment in time.

The most important thing to remember is that where you are right now (physically, financially, emotionally) does not reflect what you are.