Imagine trying to be successful without being able to communicate effectively with other people. Whether it’s success in your personal or professional life, one thing should be clear, you need to know how to communicate with other humans to succeed. You can overcome a lot of obstacles on your road to success but one you cannot just bypass, crawl over, or avoid is communication. It’s a skill you need to learn.
The trouble is, there are three “Don’ts” that crush our ability to succeed. I first discovered these three no’s while attending an ACA meeting. ACA is an organization that teaches people how to deal with growing up in dysfunctional families. I was encouraged by a mentor to attend even though I was sure dysfunction didn’t apply to me and my upbringing.
One such dysfunction is that we never learn how to relate or communicate with people in a constructive and powerful way. The thing is, we don’t even realize we aren’t good communicators. Why? Because we’re playing by a set of rules we adopted while living in a house of dysfunction.
And this lack of ability to communicate powerfully becomes a huge stumbling block on our road to success — and even in our ability to find happiness. The question is, “What, specifically, happens in these homes that stifles our learning to communicate?” The answer is that there are three no’s, either spoken or unspoken, that crush the spirit of communication in our homes. Sometimes these don’ts are subtle, sometimes they are very clear and very loud. Either way, they become our “truth” about how we should show up in the world.
Here are the 3 Don’ts that crush our ability to succeed:
1. Don’t Talk
Imagine you’re 8 or 10 years old and your dad comes home from work after a tough day at the office. You’ve got questions about why a hippopotamus has such a fat face. So, you start explaining and setting up your question when your dad looks at you with that look. That “don’t talk to me right now look”.
It doesn’t take too many attempts for you to come to believe that what annoys people is talking to them. As a result, you don’t talk unless someone talks to your first. Even then, we keep answers short.
In other homes, it may be much more direct. I have a coaching client who was told by his father “Do not speak unless spoken to.” You can’t get much more clear than that. Finally, “don’t talk” may mean don’t talk about anything important or too personal.
The bottom line is “Don’t Talk” crushes any hope of effective communication. Next time you’re visiting the folks at home, or visiting siblings, see if you can spot the “don’t talk” rule in effect.
2. Don’t Trust
If you live in a world where most people are not to be trusted, it’s going to be very difficult to communicate openly and honestly with people, especially people with whom you want to have a working relationship.
In my home, there were always “bad guys” out in the world. Maybe it was my dad’s boss, or the government, or that suspicious neighbor down the street. My guess is there were “bad guys” in your house too. And we all know we don’t trust bad guys.
The trouble is, we were never given specifics about what makes a bad guy bad. We just picked up that there are a lot of bad people out there. After all, when you live in a house for 18-20 years you’re going to store away a lot of conversations about bad guys.
The other way we learn “don’t trust” is through broken promises. For instance, when our mom, dad, brother, sister, grandparents, or other people we look up to promises to invest time with us and then something happens and they don’t… again… then, our excitement turns to sadness. We quickly learn “don’t trust” because, well, trusting hurts and never works out.
3. Don’t Feel
This third don’t is often the result of the other two. It’s a coping mechanism. If we’re not to talk and if we’re not to trust, then the natural next step is “don’t feel.” As I said, this tends to be a result of wanting to talk, being shut down, and experiencing pain.
It’s a result of trusting, our trust being betrayed, and us experiencing the pain. Repeat that cycle a few times and we learn it’s probably best if we simply “don’t feel” from the start. As you think back to your home growing up, you’ll probably begin to see one, two, or all three of these “don’ts” were present in your home.
What’s tough to understand is that most of these rules were also rules in our parents’ homes. It’s a learned behavior. Unfortunately, many of our parents didn’t have access to articles like this one or to sites like Addicted2success where they could notice and unlearn these subtle but deadly rules.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
So, next time you notice that little voice in your head saying, “don’t talk”, “don’t trust”, or “don’t feel”, question where it comes from and then ask if not talking, not trusting or not feeling is going to improve or crush your ability to succeed in that moment. If it’s crush, then speak up, trust, and feel into the power and opportunity of the moment.