Communicating is Everything, But How Good Are You?

Entrepreneurs and executives tend to succeed in large part because of vast life experiences that allow them to provide an excellent service or product, sell it, and manage the people and processes that make it happen.

That’s a combination of education, training, personal background, working, the influence of family and friends, travel… it’s an almost-endless list of human experience, and the result is how you do what you do.

At different points, we undertake training for specific skills that allow us to progress in each of these areas (and eventually, on our business). Engineers and financial firms start with basic math, and marketing companies wouldn’t get very far without everyone having learned how to read. These basic skills form the foundations on which we build our businesses and the relationships that sustain them. We have to because they make up the bulk of how we interact. It’s common sense.

But what if most of us ignore two of the most important, seminal aspects of running successful businesses and maintaining successful relationships? What if we needed those skills more than anything and no one took the time to help us develop them?

Dinsmore Steele focuses on people. We help businesses large and small find exactly the right fit with a professional employer organization. From HR to customer relationships to parents and children, people communicate. It’s at the heart of everything we do.

Why, then, do we spend almost no time refining the most basic elements of communication -- speaking and listening?

At first glance, it’s obvious. We do it all the time. With a lifetime of practice, why wouldn’t we all be experts? Between 23 and 27 weeks, babies start to hear while they’re still in the womb. Sometime around a year and a half after being born, we all started to utter our first words, and we got better at talking as we developed.

But in adulthood, we can admit that some of us are better than others when it comes to speaking and listening. Maybe you’re an amazingly persuasive speaker; maybe you tense up at the thought of having to talk to a dinner table full of people.

Perhaps you’re the type of person who can listen to someone speak and pull out their hidden thoughts and emotions… or maybe you need everything you hear to be covered again step by step.

Either way, recognizing that two skills we usually take for granted -- how to speak and how to listen -- means that we can pay attention to where we’re strong and where we need to get stronger.

Mortimer J. Adler, the American philosopher and educator who authored “How to Read a Book,” also addressed verbal communication in the simply titled tome “How to Speak, How to Listen.” Adler opens with a straightforward claim:

“Some individuals may have native endowments that enable them to become better speakers than others, but training is required to bring such talent to full bloom. Likewise, skill in listening is either a native gift or it must be acquired by training.”

We know it’s true. So before looking more closely at what makes an effective communicator, ask yourself two equally straightforward questions: “How good am I at speaking, and how good am I at listening?” and then, “How do both skills affect my business?”

Think about your answers and stay tuned.

Rodney Steele