I first wrote this piece a few years ago. This week is half-term at my daughter’s school. Although she’s now older than when I wrote this and our activities are different, I think a day like this is a great way to illustrate the comms skills we all use, often without realising it.
“You should write about communication in football,” she said (she’s football mad). “When we were playing football yesterday we had to communicate with each other to play as a team.”
She may only be 9, but she recognises that communication plays an important role in every day life – she’s very wise! This got me thinking about the comms skills that we all use while going about our daily business. So I picked a day during half-term last week and had a think about the skills I had used.
7.30 am – Breakfast
Goal: to feed my daughter
This was a simple appeal for information (“what do you want to eat?”) and providing what she asked for. I had to pause the Sky box to make sure she focused on me, not the cartoon, whilst answering the question.
Comms skills: ability to identify a clear question; awareness of potential distractions and mitigating actions; listening and responding.
9 am (it was the holidays) – Getting dressed
Goal: to have both of us up and dressed, ready to face the day.
When she was younger, this could be a regular battle (in my opinion, anyone who can get a pre-schooler up, dressed and out of the house by mid-morning is a champion communicator), but it is much more straight-forward these days. I still have to make it clear what we need to do and keep an eye out for unexpected distractions, like books or, these days, her phone, or deliberate evasions (“oh, you mean I have to wash my face and brush my teeth!”).
Comms skills: clear messages; awareness of audience interests and motivations; obtaining regular feedback.
10 am – Sainsbury’s food delivery
Goal: to be a pleasant person while receiving my food delivery.
Now, I’m sure it’s possible to do that without saying more than the bare minimum of words to the delivery driver, but that’s just not me. I may have opted for the good old British approach of discussing the weather, but we did talk about how his job is easier in sunshine than in rain.
Comms skills: ability to adapt the angle of my subject matter; awareness of my own personal communication style.
11.30 am – Booking cinema tickets
Goal: to book tickets for a film at our local cinema.
We made a last minute decision to go and see a movie. This involved finding out online what films were showing and when. The first timing we chose was sold out, so we had to pick another one, then reserve and pay for the tickets to pick up from the box office.
Comms skills: identifying the key information I needed; being flexible; providing the correct information to achieve my outcome (in this case, credit card details).
1 pm – Impromptu lunch with a friend
Goal: we started out with the goal of grabbing some lunch before seeing the film.
When we went into the garden centre to go to the café, we bumped into a friend who has been going through a tough time lately, so we invited her to join us for a bite to eat. The goal became more about spending time with a friend to cheer her up and not simply about feeding our faces before the movie.
Comms skills: ability to be flexible; empathy; listening; story-telling.
6 pm – Football training
Goal: to have fun and learn some new skills.
We’ve all heard the stories of kids’ football games and training sessions that are treated like the World Cup, usually by the parents, but luckily we don’t have that sort of nonsense at my daughter’s club. The coach makes sure the kids have fun while they are learning new skills, getting their views on how they’re doing as well as telling them what he sees.
Comms skills: ability to identify new ways to communicate information; awareness of audience needs and motivations; feedback gathering and listening.
8 pm – Dinner with my husband
Goal: to catch up after a busy day
My husband has recently started a new job, so he is meeting lots of new people and getting to grips with the systems, processes and jargon of a new company. We also had family coming to visit over the weekend so we needed to make sure that we had everything ready for their stay.
Comms skills: listening; ability to identify key information to achieve an outcome; story-telling.
And there you have it! There are lots of communication skills that we all use whilst going about our daily business and which we can apply to other situations if we focus and identify what we are really doing. What communication skills have you used today?
If you would like help identifying the communication skills you and your colleagues use and can apply in different circumstances, please get in touch.
Until next time