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.