Lessons Learnt 1: Communication


Throughout my working career, I learn every day. This is the first in a series of lessons learnt that I have jotted down over time that has helped my performance and act as useful reminders.

Why don’t they teach this in schools?

The biggest challenge we face is the ability to communicate. This basic of all skills from a bird song to a pack of animals is core to us as social animals. Yet why are we so bad at it? Subjectivity is one reason, with inbuilt prejudices that merely look for confirmation bias, listening is the other (a whole other lesson on this).

In work this is even more paramount, where you are having to get people to do things for you, to listen to you, yet they are not ‘friends’. If they were friends – well would you turn to a friend and tell them what to do and give them a deadline!

For someone who prefers walking for hours on the moor without any human contact and lusts (in the full passion of the word) for silence – that non-noise which has no human in it. The art of communication is even more of a challenge.

It goes against every natural disposition – the urge to say what needs to be said, get a round of nods and then get on. But, oh no, this is never the case. Thousands of books on the art of communication tell you what to do that by the time you get into a social situation there are so many variables that the wood for the trees can’t be seen.

I lean to more Captain Corelli’s Mandolin than Hemingway’s short form of communication. I’ve always played drama, backstory and comparable into my communication – this turns into a monologue sung from the lofty heights of a stage rather than an eye-to-eye communication.

Ironically the lack of communication leads to even less communication. So, as with any skill, practice it.

What is communication?

Communication is the true ability to listen, be emphatic (put yourself in their shoes), precision, preparation, respond to them (rather than framing what you already had in your head) and not make it about you!

In summary:

  1. Listen
  2. Be emphatic
  3. Be precise
  4. Be prepared (or as prepared as you can be, if not be happy to say ‘I don’t know’)
  5. ATFQ – Answer the f***ing question – not the hundreds of other variables that you think they haven’t thought about and need answers to.
  6. Remember it’s not about you

Never say no to a communication, you may learn something, or, at worst, you will learn not to repeat it.

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