Are Communication Skills about Nature or Nurture?

Can great communication skills be taught? Or are they entirely natural? Let’s try to answer that via a story.

My wife and I have two children, 10 and 5. At their respective ages, the age gap is pretty big. They like different things, play a little differently, have different expectations… exactly as you would expect them to.

But there is this one online game that they both love. My wife and I have done tons of research on it, we are comfortable with them playing it because of its educational components, and it is something they enjoy doing together. Everybody wins! So we give them a little bit of time every day to play this game together, each on a different ipad.

The other day, the two of them approached us, somewhat sheepishly. It was obvious they “wanted” something. They asked us if they could get an improved version of the game they love, which came at a price. They told us the price (which was not a big deal) and they focused entirely on why they wanted it. It would be so much fun for us. We really want this game. That was their argument. They really, REALLY (all caps denoting THEIR emphasis) wanted it. They said that over and over.

We parents paused them, and told them that we would consider it, but they needed a better argument than just “they wanted it.” The only advice we gave them was “look at it from our perspective, and think about the things you hear us say all the time.” That was it… that was all we told them.

They hustled off, and spent a fair amount of time together that afternoon, behind closed doors. We heard lots of chatter and some animated discussion. They were busy.

That evening, they approached us and said they were ready to make their case. Our five-year-old daughter spoke first, and said “I would like my brother to speak for both of us, but I agree with everything he is going to tell you.” (Hearts melting…) She then proceeded to sit next to him, and she nodded enthusiastically throughout his “presentation.”

Our ten-year-old son proceeded to take the floor, and with a little white board by his side, he walked us through their argument of pros and cons.

We know you will care about whether this game is secure… (and he proceeded to address our concerns about security.)

We know you like us to play together… (and he proceeded to highlight their joint enthusiasm.)

We know that cost always matters, so I am willing to pay for this out of my allowance…

And so on… he took us through all the pros and cons. He even highlighted that if we signed up now, we got a free “trial month.”

It was really hard to contain our joy, and our laughter. We wanted to say “yes” on the spot, but in order to maintain some parental suspense, we told them we would have to think about it. But we didn’t make them wait long.

The point here is not to brag about what great communicators my kids are… but they might be pretty good, and I have no problem bragging. No… the point here is that there was nothing he did that was natural. This was all learned behavior. All we had to do was point them in the correct direction, and get them to look at the issue from a perspective other than their own. And once we did that, the two of them ran with it. While our elder child was the spokesman, we heard later all about their prep, and our daughter was right there with him, building the message.

There is hope, people. Great communication skills are a learned skill.

We can do this!

Have a great day.

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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2 responses to “Are Communication Skills about Nature or Nurture?”

  1. Sara Fioretti says:

    I absolutely loved reading this story. I had a smile on my face the entire time, as I have a 10 year-old son and a 7 year-old daughter who recently went through this exact exercise when trying to convince us to get a hamster. I read this story to them so they know that we are normal parents – and this was all a part of life’s lessons.

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.