three guiding habits for communicating in the digital age.


My book of the moment is Stop Talking, Start Communicating: Counterintuitive Secrets to Success in Business and Life by Geoffrey Tumlin.

I’ve been a student of communication for many, many years. I firmly believe that it is the core and crux of humanity. Good communication enables success and happiness. Exceptional communication skills pretty much guarantee them.

And this book delivers on both communication theory and concrete tools for creating exceptional communication skills relevant to all aspects of your life. I think you should read it. Pay attention. Figure out how the tools Tumlin shares can work in your life.

In the meantime, I’ll share some of Tumlin’s thoughts that resonated with me.

The book approaches communication as it’s happening in our digital age, which puts some interesting strains on us. Tumlin makes some points concrete that have been of vague but growing concern for me.

A primary one: “Today, most of us struggle to have meaningful interactions because of the power, allure, and distractions of our digital devices.” The ubiquity of platforms and devices for instantaneous communication? Making it “easier than ever to gratify our impulses with I-based personal communication and self-expression before an online audience, but harder than ever for meaningful, we-based interpersonal communication.”

My observation: the megaphone has become the symbol for communication in the digital age. One-way, broadcast out to an ever-larger audience. Fast, easy, and loud.

With this, consider that interpersonal communication is at the heart of meaningful relationship in all aspects of life. It’s the “we-based,” not the “I-based,” that creates the connections we seek to be happy.

Knowing this, Tumlin offers us three “guiding habits” to “restore effectiveness and meaning to the daily conversations that constitute our relationships and our lives.”

These habits help us to put down the megaphone.

(1) Listen like every sentence matters. All of our interactions, professional and personal, benefit when we pay close attention to the person we’re communicating with. When folks realize that they’re being heard, good stuff flows. That we acknowledge and practice excellent listening is even more important today, for as Tumlin notes, “[t]he digital revolution facilitated hypercommunication and instant self-expression, but, ironically, made it harder for anyone to listen.” Yep.

(2) Talk like every word counts. Why? Because you never know when or how the words you speak will make an incredible difference — either to the positive, or negative. Knowing this, we should treat every word we say as of potential import. My observation: this is perhaps even more deserving of our attention in the digital age, since it’s so incredibly easy to dash off a tweet, text or e-mail to an audience of thousands. Think before you speak.

(3) Act like every interaction is important. This third habit brings the first two together, requiring that we make the effort to foster authentic communication by both listening and talking with intention. Why? It’s simple, as Tumlin writes: “To convert the potential of an interaction into a productive and meaningful connection, we need to treat every opportunity for communication like it’s important.” Why this is hard today? Digital age communication is all about quick and easy modes of communication, focusing less on content and more on speed and convenience. Which compromises our ability to achieve truly interpersonal communication.

The most effective communicators I know? They’re masters of these three habits, regardless of the mode or medium of communication. They’re not perfect. But they do these three things. Consistently.

I’m challenging myself over the course of the month to hyper-focus on these habits. Already I’ve seen the positive impact (on the 9-year-old son), along with lost opportunities (as pointed out by the 12-year-old daughter). The habits aren’t yet habits for me. But slowly, with intention, I hope they will be.

Good communication = good relationships = good life.

– Geoffrey Tumlin

There’s more good stuff to mine from Stop Talking, Start Communicating. Stay tuned.

be intentional.

Today, with intention, I’ve decided that I am qualified to opine on this: live intentionally, and your life will be more like what you want it to be.

Without intention, life is much less likely to happen in the way you wish it to happen.

Yes, I’m giving you this advice. Even though I question daily whether I am qualified to advise anyone on anything, really.*

You will find no links in this post to scientific or other support for this proposition. Simply my observation. My proposal. That whatever it is you seek is more likely to be if you spend your days with intention.

What this looks like? Well, that’s different for each of us. So, no “do these five things and you will be living an intentional life.” Nope, it’s not that easy. Or that hard.

For me? Living intentionally means that I spend some time each day pondering the what if. I visualize what it means to be wherever it is I want to be, and ponder further on what it will take to get there. With intention, I move forward. Whatever that may mean, on a given day.

Some days, that path is crystal clear. Others (most?) it’s murkier than the pond I used to swim in as a child.

I spend a lot of time talking to lawyers (and other really smart people) who are in various places in life, personally and professionally. A common thread? Those who live with intention focus less on the negative and more on the positive. They’re more likely to be close to where they think they want to be.

This truth is born out on those days that I’m able to do the same.

So, my advice for today: live with intention. Practice with intention. Don’t simply exist. BE what and who you wish to be. Even on the murky days. Especially on the murky days.


*Despite the fact that I have a masters in communication, a law degree (from a top 20 school, no less), have been practicing law for 16 years, and taught communication at the university level. Despite the fact that I regularly consult with really smart people about how they can do and be even better in whatever it is that they want to do and be.

I’m not throwing all of this out there to convince you that I’m “qualified” to give you this advice. Perhaps I’m throwing it out there to convince myself.? Sometimes I hide behind these letters. Even when I know that they aren’t who I am. At best, they represent some work I did.