I got kicked out of where I was staying today…
My friend Ana forgot to mention yesterday to her landlord that a 6’2 American male would be crashing the couch during his backpacking expeditions throughout Europe.
Now I’m sitting at what I think is the German version of Blue Bottle coffee in San Francisco, where I drowned hearty hot chocolate while taking in the view of busy techies, beer-holding buds, and first daters alike buzzing around me even at 7:30 pm local time on a Wednesday night.
The people with smiles on their faces right now are doing what my friend Ana failed to do last night, or what I’ve been failing to do with locals as the foreigner during my trip.
They communicate well.
It sounds so simple, but the truth is that how you communicate determines whether you prosper or whether you crash and burn in your business, in your relationships, and pretty much anything else that requires human interaction.
My dad and I aren’t really talking right now…In fact, we haven’t been more than maybe sitting down for coffee or taking ten minutes on the phone once a quarter for over a year at least, and in reality, more like two or three.
We suck at communicating with each other.
On the flip-side, this afternoon I Skype’d with my co-founder Stacey this morning and had an entire thirty minute meeting about how we were going to communicate an upcoming announcement and series of updates to our group of contributors and stakeholders on Friday.
For the book launch to be successful, for this blog to be successful, or for anything I do to be successful, I’m going to have to communicate well.
If I communicate well in about an hour at a dinner party here in Berlin, I’ll perhaps make a few new friends. Maybe someone will introduce me to a friend who can host me during my travels, or to a future client for my growing marketing consultancy business.
If I communicate well and don’t offend any Germans with my lack of understanding of their language and protocols, I’ll be able to order and eat dinner. That’s always a good thing…
In the past I haven’t communicated well. There’s times we’ve all sucked at communicating. It’s why we have “ex” girlfriends, or why we’ve gotten in fights or disagreements and not just debates. I’ve been screwed out of thousands of dollars before because I failed to interpret the merits of an online service provider that turned out to be a scam, thereby crashing and burning on my end of that communication interaction.
I’ve also done really well at communicating in the past. I’ve communicated my value to people like Keith Ferrazzi and Brian Smith, and scored mentors and work in the process. I communicated my vision to all the people who have written for and bought into 2 Billion Under 20 in one way or another, and they all “bought in”, which is still humbling to think about even today, more than eighteen months after original ideation.
If there’s one thing that my travels so far have pointed out, its that your ability to communicate will either allow you to be successful beyond your wildest dreams, or it will shoot you down in flames with each offense. It’s powerful sh*t.
SO, how do you improve the way you communicate?
I’m no expert, and I’ll be learning for a lifetime, but here’s some quick pointers and things that have helped me that I’d be happy to share with you better I get out of here…
- Read books like How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. These will give you years’ worth of education in the art of dealing with people.
- Talk less and listen more. People will tell you what their goals and dreams are so you can help them accomplish those and win their good faith and favor. However, you have to, have to, shut up and listen to them. Try talking 30% of the time and listening 70% of the time where applicable and let me know how it goes. You’ll learn so much…
- Give a damn…about other people, about what they are talking about, and about the value of your interactions. Just like anything else that you care about, if you focus on how well you communicate, you’ll improve on it.
- Ask better questions. I learned the value of asking really good questions when I worked at 15Five for two years. If you ask better, more insightful questions, you’ll cut through the bullsh*t quicker and get to a place where your communications mean more at the end of the day with someone. Check out what my friend Steve asked people at dinner parties we organized together back in New York, and then ask someone one of his 100 questions and see how much better you communicate.
- Attempt to understand the other person’s point of view. There’s three sides to every story, so try to understand the other sides before violently interjecting yours.
I’m sure I have other tips and tricks for you, but I want to make sure I communicate with you the bigger point here, which is just about the importance of communication rather than the “How-To’s”. That can come later…
Right now though, I want you to go practice. You’re done reading, now go communicate with someone in the best way possible so your life improves and you don’t crash and burn.
When you get that deal, date, dad…whatever, then let’s have a conversation.