Dear Friends and Family,
Happy New Year! This year, I wish you “the patience of great communications.”
Why am I wishing you this?
I believe that this wish will have a significant impact on your life.
So, here is the secret sauce!
You can build up your patience in three really easy steps:
1. Wait in lines as much as possible – wherever you see a line of people, just jump in and start talking to other people who are also in line. When you are the second person in line, check to see if the line is still long, and, if it is, go to the back of the line again. There is nothing like waiting in a good, long line – you will gain more patience in no time.
2. Have kids.
3. Only eat foods that make you constipated.
If you do these three things, you are guaranteed to build your patience up and become a more patient communicator. Then, your life will be awesome and perfect!!! ; – )
All kidding aside, I really do think this wish will make a huge difference. If you continue to read this way-to-long-for-most-modern-communications-letter, please pardon the first person narrative approach and all the letter Is – this is primarily my personal journal. As a personal journal, I am also writing this letter to myself.
Why am I wishing this for you?
While I may go overboard in this letter…since 2004, I’ve made a serious and heartfelt wish to others as the New Year kicked off. Most of us kick the New Year off by writing down a bunch of goals in hopes of forming new habits or listing all our accomplishments, right? Of course, I do that too. But, I also get one twist short of a slinky.
I can’t help it. I just get feverish about “believing in people” and energized about helping others “change and grow.” In the days leading up to New Year’s Day, you will find me spending hours with my eyes closed as my brain whirs and scoots about like a schizophrenic squirrel on crack, and I reflect on the life lessons from the past year.
Call me a weirdo, but I love it.
Here is what happens. I set my mind on a single question – it’s the same question every year, “What did I learn from life this year that could have a huge impact on the lives of others next year?” When I pop this question into the ole’ prefrontal cortex, it starts a race, and I become “almost wildly” energized about finding the answer. This meditative exercise is usually a journey across conscious, non-conscious, logical, creative, intuitive, obvious, and obscure thought as I try to figure out the most helpful, profound, and impactful way to help my fellow human (regardless of how tough or even embarrassing the experience was for me personally).
After the brainstorm, I “package the wish” up in a letter to family and friends.
From another perspective, this “wish” is a humble and sincere way to say, “may you be blessed in the New Year.” And, I sincerely mean this wish to you from the deepest part of my soul.
These wishes also have two “amazingly cool” characteristics. One, the lessons seem to almost always help others in significant ways. At least it seems that way since I started making these wishes 9 years ago. Every year, I get a little better at finding something meaningful, a little more sophisticated at explaining, and a little bolder about sharing it (particularly this year :-). What is also cool is that I am not the source of the lesson, life is. I just seem to stop, look, listen, think, and document what happened. In other words, the lesson is free! My only investment is the time to recognize it and document it. You can call me “a few peas short of a casserole,” but “free, worthwhile lessons to help others” are amazingly cool in my book.
These wishes aren’t always easy to do. Here are the “blessings” I’ve wished for you since 2004: pursue bright ideas, take time to “be present” and document your life journey, build broader and deeper relationships, develop the will to make a difference in someone’s life every day, experience the soul of music, observe and honor when someone truly believes in you, grow personally from deeper relationships, and know thy peaceful self. If you’ve read any of my past wishes and experienced something unexpected or positive, I’d certainly love to hear about it!
Why is this wish about communications?
Because our lives and livelihood depend on communications
No, I am not kidding, I mean it. Your life and well-being depend on communications.
We all saw innocent children die this year. Perhaps the patience of great communication could have helped avoid such a tragedy.
Jobs and joblessness, marriage and divorce, business success and failure, close and estranged families – these are all, in part, a result of good or bad communications. Personally, I saw lies, judgments, and impatience destroy relationships in business and between friends. These even led to depression, financial ruin, and more. On the positive side, I also saw great communications help people, businesses, governments, and spiritual leaders in significant ways.
Think about the people you know who have “good days” and “bad days” based on how someone communicated with them. Think about how upsetting or motivating communications impact you personally.
Go ahead. Call me a bag of hammers. But, I think communications are kinda sacred because of their power.
Because Communications are Ubiquitous
Ubiquity is defined as “being everywhere at the same time.”
Are communications really ubiquitous? Let’s test this.
- We communicate whenever we come in contact with someone – parents, children, family, friends, customers, managers, employees, customer service reps, salespeople, and more.
- Just about everything we do is a form of communication.
- Without talking, we constantly and subconsciously deliver and receive non-verbal cues from people we interact with through their attitude, tone of voice, facial expressions, level of attention, and more.
- If you also believe that “actions speak louder than words,” we also communicate in every non-speaking and non-writing action we do.
- We constantly communicate with ourselves as we think, make decisions, process feelings, and negotiate with our own desires. In fact, we often do this without even having conscious awareness of it.
- With online video, instant messaging, texting, emails, and social networks, we have more channels of communication today than we ever have had in the history of mankind.
OK, we don’t communicate when we sleep. Or, do we?
Otherwise, it seems we communicate all the time, even if we are alone. Since the act of communicating happens almost every moment of our lives, I would characterize communications as having significant power.
Because communications impacted me greatly in 2012
Another reason I chose communications is because the topic had a huge impact on my professional life.
This year, I spent more time writing than I ever have in my life. While I’ve always had to write in my career, I never spent a whole year as a full time writer and editor. And…in 2012, I was basically a full time writer and one with a decent income. (Hmmm, funny that I didn’t really like the last writing class I took in AP high school English.)
In my writing work, I developed a fairly sizable volume and variety of content on behalf of a large, world-class, technology business and two of my own small businesses (all with partners). Apparently, content is still popular on the internet and gets measurable business results ; – ). In any event, writing is the core of what I did every day, and I easily spent 2000 hours writing or editing hundreds of thousands of words. Every now and then I did some graphics or video too, and I also spent a fair bit of time a) understanding who I was writing for and b) studying the measures for how my writing was distributed through social media, captured by search engines, and consumed by people.
In any event, communications and writing put ALL the food on the table this year. I learned to respect communications and writing more than I ever have.
Because it was a clear theme in my accomplishments for 2012
Furthermore, communications became a theme again when I reflected on 2012’s accomplishments. At the start of 2012, I didn’t know how things would go or what I’d be doing. I just wanted 2012 to be better than “2011 – the year I started over.” Well, here is what happened in 2012:
- I got into a relationship. We fell in love, moved in together, and got engaged. Then we got married! This wouldn’t have happened without patience and great communications.
- We are pregnant and expecting our first child in 2013! Another life event where great communications is crucial and highly emotional.
- We experienced many amazing friendships and world-class music. We honored the importance of a) spending quality time communicating with others and b) feeling how music communicates to us.
- We sold my house (after it was on the market for about 18 months) and moved. This took significant patience while others communicated on my behalf.
- My sister and brother in law had a baby, and I became an uncle for the first time. I also visited them more this year than I ever have before. Our chats have been awesome, particularly because we are having kids at the same time. In addition, the birth has helped our whole family get better at communicating.
- As mentioned, I began a new consulting business with a close friend in 2012. It has thrived and created significant, measurable business value for some of the most successful technology companies on the planet. This business is 100% communications.
- One of the small businesses I started with several partners in 2011 made tremendous progress in 2012. We did a lot of research and writing for the business and learned a lot in the process. The success of this business is largely tied to the success of our communications.
- Another small business I started working on in 2011 with a partner made limited progress in 2012, and it also had a lot of writing involved. In the process, we learned a lot about writing, public relations, our customers, and ourselves. We also recognized a number of related opportunities because of our writing efforts.
- My health is very good after finding out I “sometimes had an extra heartbeat” earlier in the year. When you have something scary happen with your health, you do communicate with your loved ones and yourself quite a bit about some pretty serious topics.
- Lastly, I quit smoking! While you may not think of this as communications-centric, you also talk to yourself a lot when you quit smoking. These self-communications are what keep you on track!
While all positives, these “ups” also had downs, set-backs, challenges, and imperfections. Regardless, “my journey” in 2012 was awesome. There was one other important communication with myself – I continued my commitment to thankfulness and renewed my “365 day vow” this past Thanksgiving. There is no question that I see a clear connection between a “perspective of thankfulness” and what happens positively in my life! Needless to say, I am thankful for so many things in 2012.
For these reasons, I chose communications to be part of my wish to you.
But why the wish for “the patience of”?
Because more patience is needed in today’s world.
We all open our email inboxes each morning and guess what happens? There are 166 emails vying for our attention. Then, we get this feeling in our stomach like we are looking at a class of 166 kindergarten kids on Krispy Kreme Donut Day. And, each kid is vying for our attention. Then, we begin the journey – trying to patiently get through all of these emails so we can get “real work” done.
(By the way, I’ve chosen to err on the side of completeness in this letter. Pardon the length :-).
Indeed, I wish you “the patience of great communications,” because I believe the magic is in the patience. Patience makes your brain work differently and makes you act differently. Patience makes people react differently to you too.
Patience is also a means to an end in my wish. I believe “the patience of great communications” will help you enjoy life more, achieve greater success, and be more at peace. I also believe it will help you have a greater, more positive impact on the lives of others before you leave this planet. This is why patience is part of the wish to you.
Before we dive into patience, I don’t want to forget to define the “great” part of communications so that my entire wish for you is clear. In my wish to you, I define “great communications” as communications sent and received in a way that accomplishes a desired, timely, positive result. These types of communications build connective and supportive “tissue” between humans and help us relate. Of course, you might have a goal of “being an ass” to someone or have “poor communications” on purpose, but this isn’t really part of my wish to you :-).
Now, let me explain why I think patience has magic in communications.
To understand this wish fully, I need to explain how impatience has a spectrum of severity that relates to fear or survival. For example, we have “Buddha patience” on one end, “normal impatience” in the middle of the spectrum, and then we have “pregnant woman who has to pee impatience” on the far end of the spectrum ; – ).
Impatience can be defined as “an eager desire for relief or change; intolerance for anything that prevents, delays, or hinders.” We are impatient because something is preventing, delaying, or hindering what we desire. For example, we can think impatiently:
- I want my boss to like my work and my customer to be happy. I am annoyed by this situation.
- I want the whole executive team to get it done in time for the board meeting. I am irritated by the delay.
- I want my husband to listen more. I get frustrated when he doesn’t listen.
- I want my friend (or colleague) to be there for me. I am angry because they weren’t there for support.
- I want my kid to do well in school. I am stressed they won’t get into a good college.
Impatience has a spectrum of severity:
- Mild Impatience: If something was hindering you from getting a glass of water, and you were thirsty, you might “feel mildly impatient” or “bummed that you can’t get a glass of water.”
- Moderate Impatience: If you asked a waiter for a glass of water because you needed to take some medication, and they kept forgetting it, you’d probably be getting more annoyed each time you asked. By the 5th time, you’d probably move from impatient to upset and angry.
- Extremely Severe Impatience: If something was preventing your village and family from getting any water for weeks, your impatience and anger might turn into rage as survival mechanisms kick in.
The problem is when impatience is driven by desires or fears that are severe enough to invoke our survival mechanisms. Let’s extend “I want something” with “I want something because I don’t have it.” After all, if we already had it, why would we want it? When we truly fear that we lack something – the strength of the fear can put our brain in survival mode. Here are the examples again with a “moderate” level of impatience:
- Uh oh, my boss didn’t like what the customer said. I may not have a good review. My job and income is at risk.
- Some of my executive team are unprepared for the board meeting. Changing the date will piss me off.
- My husband never listens. Does he love me? Will we end up divorced? I am scared.
- My friend (or colleague) doesn’t really care about me. Where are my friends that do care? Do I have any?
- My kid isn’t doing well in school. They are going to fail out of school. I am a bad parent – that’s my worst fear.
Over the past few years, I’ve spent significant time with a large body of research that points to how our brains operate. In a nutshell, the more we experience a “survival oriented” (i.e. fear) scenario, the more flaws show up in our decisions, and this includes how we choose to speak, write, read, and listen. Let’s look at the examples one last time where “moderate” impatience leads to flawed communication decisions:
- My boss is being an ass. I won’t listen to his advice. My customer is upset. I don’t want to talk to them.
- My executives didn’t complete this with enough quality; I am going to ream them.
- My husband didn’t listen again. I have had enough. I don’t want to try communicating any more.
- My friend (or colleague) didn’t care enough to check in on me yesterday. I am not going to their birthday.
- My kid’s grades are terrible. I don’t want to talk to anyone that can help because I am embarrassed.
Hopefully, these examples show how impatience can grow into a more fear or survival driven state. When this happens, there are more flaws in how we read, listen, speak, and write. With more flaws, it becomes much harder to achieve “great communications” as a sender or receiver of communications. This is why I think the magic is in the patience – it reduces flaws.
So, what do you see from patience in communicating?
The most patience-rich environment on earth is the porta-potty line at a beer festival. No doubt, this is where the world’s greatest communications happen, right?
Of course not. But someone once said, “you can learn a lot just by watching.” So, we would both miss an opportunity to communicate well if you didn’t share observations of patience from your own life experience. See what you come up with when answering questions below about patience in communicating.
Patience is defined in Wikipedia as “the state of endurance under difficult circumstances, which can mean persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting on annoyance/anger in a negative way; or exhibiting forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer-term difficulties. Patience is the level of endurance one can take before negativity.”
This is a freakin’ mouthful! To summarize, patience means we can face difficulties, delays, stressful stimulation, or irritation and avoid acting annoyed or angry. So, what do you think?
- Does the quality of your listening, speaking, reading and/or writing generally go up or down when you face difficulties? For example…when your little boy or girl is throwing their fourth public fit of the day, you orate like a U.S. president, right?
- Do your communications improve when dealing with delays? For example, how do you act when your flight is cancelled? Are you ready to hand out “free hugs” to all the customer service agents or do you get a little nasty? Does the nastiness help the communication with the agents?
- Do your communications improve or not when something stresses you out?
- When you face something irritating?
- When you are annoyed?
- If you are angry?
OK, what do you see in other people that are close to you? Do you see other people communicate better or worse in very difficult situations? Have any friends ever faced a breakup or divorce and stopped talking to you? Do you know any bosses who get short with the team when they learn the project is missing it’s deadline? Have you ever seen someone get upset, send an email in haste, and then regret it later? Have you ever seen someone get irritated enough that they don’t want to talk to another person and avoid them? Do your friends like to talk to people that annoy them?
What is our natural human tendency overall? Does our listening, speaking, reading and/or writing naturally get better or worse as we face difficulties, delays, stressful stimulations, or irritating situations? Do our communications suffer? Do we get the outcomes we want when our communications suffer?
When I answer these for myself, here is basically what I see. If someone is more patient, they may still experience difficulties, delays, stressful stimulation, or irritating events, but they do a better job managing the emotions of being annoyed or angry. By reducing annoyance or anger, there are fewer flaws in their thinking. The quality of our listening, speaking, reading, and/or writing stays higher with fewer flaws. This ultimately leads to better communications to achieve desired, timely, and positive results.
This is what I wish for you, “the patience of great communications.”
Choosing fear-based communications
Some people might still say, “I choose to communicate with impatience because people respond more to fear and threats.” While this might be true in some scenarios, are you really building a quality, long-term relationship based on fear? When people are fearful, you probably aren’t getting the best thinking and decision-making from them. You are probably not building long-lasting, loyal relationships through fear. This is not the approach I wish for anyone because I don’t view the approach as getting the desired, timely, and positive result from great communications.
Ways to exercise patience in communications
While I wish patience to “magically happen to you” whenever you communicate, it might take some practice to build the habit. So, here are a few ways you can practice building up your patience in communications:
- Take the time to “press pause” more. Try to stop more often and give someone your full attention without impatience (remember to also do this when you listen and talk to yourself).
- Before you react impatiently, take the time to think about, understand, and consider the behaviors, motivations, emotions, and interests of the person or people you are communicating with and appreciate it for what it is, even if you don’t like it.
- Take time to think about how your own behaviors, motivations, emotions, and interests influence your outbound and inbound communications.
- Take the time to get feedback and improve on how well you listen, read, speak, and write.
- Take the time to practice your patience and communications to improve.
The world around us can be a better place if we all learn to communicate more patiently.
With Much Love,