What my mum has taught me about communication skills

I spent this past Sunday celebrating Mother’s day with one of my favourite human beings in this world, my wonderful mum.

My mum and I are very close and have a great relationship. She is someone I respect and admire enormously and in the words of Celine Dion – I am everything I am because she loved me.

All that said, my mum and I are very different.  She is a text book introvert whereas I am a typical extrovert. When we completed the Myers Briggs profile we discovered she is an INFP to my ESTJ (these are complete opposites) and in our Insights profiles my mum leads with green and I lead with red. Again, fundamentally poles apart.

Being raised by someone who experiences this world so differently to me has been such an education in every way. Today I wanted to share with you the three things my mum has taught me about communication skills.

  1. Self and other awareness

Before Daniel Goleman there was my mum aka Little Sue.  Daniel may have introduced the world to Emotional Intelligence in his book in the late 90’s but for years before that my mum put self and other awareness   at the heart of her parenting approach.

My mum always believed EQ (Emotional Intelligence) was just as important, if not more important, than IQ. She always considered success in life is determined by so much more then exams and grades. My mum knew to thrive in this world, to navigate the grey, you had to be able to manage yourself and understand others.

Through my mum I learned, from an early age, the importance of having insight into myself as well as being mindful of others. She taught me the value of empathy, of really understanding and feeling the world from another’s point of view.

Today and every day I try and start with this awareness when I communicate. I ask myself who I am taking to  and  how might my  verbal and non-verbal communication impact them when delivering a message.  I even have a name for it – Audience Profiling.

  1. The power of silence

When I was growing up and the people in my life went silent I took it very personally. It felt like a cruel form of torture designed to punish me in some way.

Why wouldn’t they talk to me? Why wouldn’t they tell me what they were thinking, share every idea or tease out every possibility? Why wouldn’t they debate, discuss and argue with me? Anything .… ANYTHING but go quiet.

It took me a while to understand that for some people, when it comes to communication,  silence is essential. Silence allows them to hear their own voice. The need to go quiet, withdraw and reflect  is essential for them. I also discovered  their withdrawal  had nothing to do with me directly  therefore it was and is vital for me to respect someone else’s need to go silent.

I have learned from my mum that I must be disciplined enough to say something once and then stop talking. Saying it more than once is shouting and shouting is obnoxious communication.

Today I believe there is a  great power in silence. It means I pause and I listen. It means I  can hear my own voice. It means I am thoughtful in what I say and how I say it,  instead of blurting out words  without regard for how it might impact others.

Silence has become one of my favorite  secret weapons when it comes to great communication.

  1. Not to make assumptions

To explain  this lesson I need your help. I want you to elect a new world leader for me please.

Here are the facts about the three leading candidates.

Candidate A- Associates with crooked politicians and consults astrologists. He’s had two mistresses. He also chain smokes and drinks 9-10 martinis a day.

Candidate B- He was kicked out of office twice, sleeps until noon, used heroin in college and drinks a bottle of whiskey every evening.

Candidate C – He’s a decorated war hero. He’s a vegetarian, doesn’t smoke, drinks an occasional beer and hasn’t had any extramarital affairs.

Who would you choose as your world leader ?

We all make decisions and judgment’s based on the information we have. And often we  communicate before we have the full story

Without having the  full story, without asking the right questions and listening to the answers properly we can say the wrong things, in the wrong way, at the wrong time. We can make bad judgements that in turn lead to bad decisions, which in turn lead to bad communication.

Not judging a book by its cover and making sure I have the full story was something my mum required  of me before I judged or spoke.


Here are your World Leader candidates’ names

Candidate A – Franklin D Roosevelt

Candidate B – Winston Churchill

Candidate C – Adolf Hitler

I voted for Hitler too.

Our words have a great power. Every time we speak we have the potential to build or un -build a relationship. This is not something we necessarily get taught in school, college or the workplace  so I am incredibly grateful and blessed  I had such a great teacher  in my lovely mum.

For more information,  tips and strategies  check out The Presentation Book here


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