Better Communication

Many people equate good com­mu­nic­a­tion skills with the abil­ity to speak well and listen well. This assump­tion misses one essen­tial com­pon­ent: two-way com­mu­nic­a­tion skills.

Primar­ily writ­ten for ment­ors, this advice on good two-way com­mu­nic­a­tion is par­tic­u­larly use­ful for all. I espe­cially like the Traffic Light Rule of com­mu­nic­a­tion:

Dur­ing the first 30 seconds of an utter­ance, your light is green. That means your protégé is listen­ing and not think­ing you talk too much. Dur­ing the next 30 seconds, your light is yel­low. That means the risk is increas­ing that your listen­er is bored, over­whelmed, or dying to respond. After the one-minute mark, your light is red. Yes, occa­sion­ally, you can go bey­ond a minute, for example, when telling an inter­est­ing story, but gen­er­ally you should stop or ask a ques­tion.

4 thoughts on “Better Communication

  1. Lloyd Morgan Post author


    May I ask if it took you longer than one minute to read this?

    Any­way, thanks for the con­struct­ive com­ment; please feel free to offer your ana­lys­is on some of my oth­er posts.

    Only jok­ing, of course! Thanks for the lovely com­ment.

  2. Anonymous

    This is based on the atten­tion span typ­ic­al in the USA. It would be quite dif­fer­ent in oth­er coun­tries. In some cul­tures the first 30 sec is expec­ted to be the “intro­duc­tion”, the “set­ting of the scene” for any state­ment by a reas­on­ably soph­ist­ic­ated per­son and hence not the “prime time”.

  3. Lloyd Morgan Post author

    Hi there (Anon),

    Thanks for the com­ment, although I feel I must dis­agree:

    Apart from your gross gen­er­al­isa­tion about the typ­ic­al U.S. cit­izen’s atten­tion span, I think you’re quite correct—although miss­ing the point.

    Every­where we go (regard­less of inter­na­tion­al bor­ders) your point holds true: the first 30 seconds to a minute are intro­duct­ory, depend­ing on the con­text… and in the con­text that this advice is sup­posed to be taken I feel that the ‘Traffic Light Rule’ is wholly val­id.

    Of course, the trick is not to take this advice too literally—nobody should time them­selves talking—but instead simply be aware of time passing while enga­ging in a two-way dis­cus­sion.


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