A critical part of communication is not what we had thought it to be all along. If history had commanded corporations to ensure that they ‘speak out’ their advertisement campaigns and product features in as forceful a manner as possible, contemporary times are destroying that strategic belief to forward a line of thought that perhaps quite the opposite is true now, if one wishes to succeed fantastically!

I teach a course in communication. After I have taught students the importance of making a good first impression, of the power of words and how to use them effectively, of the factors to keep in mind so that one is understood properly, of how to use one’s voice to make a speech most interesting, I tell them, “Now you know everything about speaking in public, but you still are not a master communicator.” And that is because there is still something more to communication than speaking. Speaking is just 33% of communicating. Then what’s the rest? Well, let’s try to figure out that.


This was decades ago when America was torn with the Civil War and Lincoln was fighting hard to abolish slavery. He wrote to an old friend of his and asked him to come to Washington to discuss some problems. When his friend came, Lincoln talked to him for hours. Lincoln went over all the arguments, letters, newspapers, articles, which had arguments both for and against abolishing slavery. After talking for the whole night almost, Lincoln finally bid goodbye to his friend without even asking him his opinion. His friend later commented that that night, Lincoln did not want advice, he wanted a friend.

A man once met Stephen Covey and put forward his problem, “I can’t understand my kid. He just won’t listen to me at all.” A visibly surprised Covey commented, “You don’t understand your kid because he won’t listen to you? But I thought to understand another person, you need to listen to him!” The father looked even more surprised.

To put it simplistically, what is it that Lincoln’s friend did, which the father in the second case did not do? Yes, listening! That night, Lincoln wanted a sympathetic listener to whom he could unburden himself. And perhaps the father in the second case did not realise that most children want absolutely nothing from their parents but an empathic listening. Children are waiting to open up if only they were listened to without being ridiculed or judged.


Toyota was designing its Tundra Truck, but considerable inputs come not from designers, but from farmers. A team from Toyota spent days visiting different regions of US – horse farms, factories, construction sites and more – to meet with truck owners. They did not just ask them about their preferences for towing capacity and power (in a truck) but even silently observed them at work. Through this, the team learnt the ideal placement of the gear shifter; they also learnt that the door handle and radio knobs needed to be extra large because pickup owners often wore gloves all day. Clearly, no amount of discussions or brainstorming sessions could have possibly revealed these nuanced preferences.     Read More....

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