At the end of 2019, a challenge appeared that redefines the way we communicate; COVID-19 has started spreading around the world. We are at the intersection of a number of crises including pandemic control, economic distress, misinformation, environmental degradation, inadequate safety nets, gender inequality and, at times, government incompetence. At the individual level, we experience numbness: elements of fatigue, anxiety and stress. In short, we are in a state of burnout.
I started to wonder, is the pandemic a catalyst for rethinking the way we communicate? Could we break the numbness and find out how to talk like rebels?
Conversation does not come easily to everyone. A third of us like to chat and will talk at any time of the day on any subject. But the remaining two-thirds of us aren’t talkative types. We find conversation difficult because of shyness, introversion, social anxiety, communication disorders, or learning difficulties, or because we don’t feel fluent or articulate.
“Almost all of us have a communication problem that we don’t even know exists,” says actor and science communicator Alan Alda. Still, most of us think we’re pretty good at conversation and that all problems belong to the other person.
While the education system teaches us writing and numbers, few of us learn the art of speaking: orality. We are not trained to understand another person or to speak clearly. We are not encouraged to question ourselves for our own benefit. We are not told how to share our opinions or disagree respectfully. Some of us are shamed for having the “wrong opinion” and silenced because our opinions offend others. Former Paralympian (and one of my successors on One plus one) Kurt Fearnley told me “one of the things that is uniquely Australian is that we admire people who don’t complain. You’re a whiner if you complain.
Are we a nation of loudmouths or are we just loud? Where are you on the conversation scale? Are you patient, obedient, carefree? Are you forgiving or do you have grudges? Do you discuss differences with your friends or erase someone who hurts you?
Do you love or run away from confrontation? Do you like sincere apologies?
Conversation is central to our lives, and this book is an invitation to re-examine your communication style, learn new skills, and choose braver outcomes. This will help you get to the point; understand and be understood; tackle difficult conversations; strengthen relationships and networks; be more assertive; develop curiosity; be kinder to yourself and others as a result; and develop quality conversations.
Rebel Talk: the art of powerful conversations, published by Brio Books, is now available.