Communication lessons from dancing

browningyork Uncategorised

Me (right) and friend, both aged 7, posing for a photo after our award-winning Charleston

Me (right) and friend, both aged 7, posing for a photo after our award-winning Charleston

I write a lot of my blog posts while waiting outside my daughter’s street dance class. Each week, she and assorted other children go in and learn some great dance moves to music for which I am definitely not the target audience! She loves it and I enjoy knowing she’s having fun.

It occurred to me, sitting here today, that dance is one of the many, many forms of human communication. It’s a way for individuals and groups to express something for which words might not do the trick. You can see this every week on Strictly Come Dancing, as the professionals try to find ways to get their celebrity partners to feel the music and express their personalities through the dance. Preferably in a way that communicates to the judges and the voting public that they know what they are doing and deserve high marks and to stay in the competition!

There are many different styles of dance and very many meanings and interpretations. A particular style might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but to me that just emphasises the point of targeting communications.

So what are the 3 communication lessons I take from dance?

  1. Everyone can do it, but it comes more naturally to some than others. Everyone can move about to a piece of music (although not necessarily in time with it). In the same way, anyone can have a go at communicating with others. But the skills of listening, putting yourself in others’ shoes and articulating your messages, verbally or in writing, take time to learn and practice. Some have these skills more naturally than others. As with dancing though, if you have the support and patience of a good teacher (comms professional) you can develop the key skills you need and improve the end result.
  2. Different audiences appreciate different styles. In the same way that a regular at Saddlers Wells might be horrified to find themselves in front of a street dance crew (but not necessarily, there are always people who appreciate more than one style), an individual who feels that communication should always be mannered, formal and detailed may not connect with a short, sharp email message. You have to think about your audience’s needs and wants when choosing the style of your communication. And if you have a mixed audience with different interests, choose a range of communication methods to reach them – one size does not have to fit all.
  3. Getting it right gives you a real buzz. Performing a dance routine, getting all your steps right and seeing the appreciative looks on the faces of your audience is a great feeling. In the same way, engaging an audience with your topic through effective 2-way communication and really connecting with them also leaves you buzzing. Knowing that you’ve made a difference by communicating well, helping someone understand something or find key information they need, for example, is a great position to be in.

So next time you feel your feet tapping to a beat, give in to the mood and throw yourself into the dance – safe in the knowledge that you’ll also be picking up some communication skills too.

Until next time