From my early days as a computer programmer, I knew I had communication problems.
I was unable to communicate openly with others at work: my boss, my co-workers and my customers. I blamed my day-dreaming for my problems. I told myself I was just too fast and creative to stay engaged in any given conversation. Ha.
I noticed that I wasn’t alone, that a lot of people were also having problems connecting with one another. I observed that people struggled with expressing themselves clearly and completely, and had trouble really getting what others had to say.
The importance of communication skills was evident.
I noticed that the relationships that had the most problems were between managers and their direct reports. Each complained about the other.
In my 30s, many years ago, I attended a Fred Pryor seminar on “How to Deal with Difficult People”. I signed up prodded by my boss, so I could deal with a subordinate that was driving me to drink. At the seminar, the instructor asked people to raise their hands if they were there because of communication problems with co-workers. A few hands went up. The instructor then asked how many of us are there because of problems with subordinates. More hands – a lot more - went up, including mine. The instructor finally asked how many were there because of problems with their boss and almost all hands went up. Including mine… oh well.
Back then, my solution was to keep quiet and work hard - How can I solve my communication problems? I just need to avoid people!. In many ways, my career in information technology was ideally suited for my purposes.
Time passed, I got promotions that placed me in positions of leadership, where I could no longer get away with avoiding people. I was forced to do presentations, to negotiate, to solve personnel problems and customer service problems.
I struggled with this, I was always uncomfortable in groups - What do they think of me? How am I coming across? My bosses sent me to communication courses, I sent myself to therapy. Given that English is my second language, I told myself that “if only I could do everything in Spanish”. In reality, the problem was not my command of English, but my being too distracted and preoccupied with what other people thought of me.
I set about learning how to get better at communicating. I attended seminars, took courses, read books, made direct observations and read articles. Through the years, I looked everywhere for solutions. As I found solutions, I tested them. I kept the ones that worked and discarded the rest. This website is all about the solutions that really worked. I made all the mistakes you can possibly make, and I’ve been lucky enough to have found ways to fix most of them.
These days, I say what I think, I express my feelings, I ask for what I need, I fight for what I believe in, I no longer keep quiet to avoid problems, I face them and move on. Improving my communication skills was the key to living a fuller life.
Does it mean that I have arrived at some magical spot where everything works and I never have communication problems? Far from it. I still cause communication problems or run into them. What's different is that I have much more awareness, and that I quickly move to fix whatever problems come my way. Every day that goes by I learn something new about people and the way we communicate with each other.
My intention for this site is to create a space where we can share ideas and information about how we can communicate openly and authentically with one another. The ultimate purpose is to enjoy better relationships with other people at work and beyond.
Have fun around the site, drop me a note - I would appreciate the feeback.
"It's not about the messenger. It's about the message" - Dalai Lama
Related article: Go to Communicator's Page