Mastering effective communication, one self at a time

By Kelly Schermer

Leadership training

While storytelling is a form of communication, it turns out that communication is so much more than telling a good story. A few weeks ago, Anya Jepsen, Executive Coach Extraordinaire, conducted a companywide training for 2A on the topic of effective communication.

We talked about how self-mastery practices can make us more effective communicators—at work, at home, even in our own heads. Essentially, self-mastery is the art of thinking about how our brains are thinking before we communicate. Here are three heavily paraphrased theories I’ve started using as mantras to try to improve my communication:

1. It’s only failure if you don’t learn from it
According to Carol Dweck Ph.D., there are two types of mindsets. People with a fixed mindset think they are born with a set amount of intelligence, athletic ability, musical aptitude, etc. People with a growth mindset believe they are born learners capable of improvement. An organization’s culture can act like a mindset. We can either judge one another for having failed or we can view failures as opportunities to learn and grow. By shifting our focus off the event’s failure (or success) and onto the process and effort that leads to improvement, we create a safe place that nurtures experimentation, creativity and growth.

2. You don’t have to go where your ladder is leading you
Our brains constantly turn selective observations about other people into assumptions and beliefs which shape our actions toward them. This subconscious process was named the ladder of inference by Chris Argyris. Depending on which observations our brains select and the meaning we assign them, it’s no surprise that our ladders can lead us astray. The good news is, if we know we’re on the ladder, we can pause long enough to challenge our assumptions and change our beliefs. 

3. Your brain may be trying to trick you
Cognitive biases are our tendencies to think a certain way, and they can really throw a wrench in good decision making. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of cognitive biases that trip us up all the time. Anchor bias, for example, makes us overly reliant on the first piece of information we get. Imagine a car at a dealership listed for $45,000. If we let this anchor us, we may believe $42,000 is a good deal. But what if the car is actually worth $30,000? Bottom line: when we’re making important decisions, we need to be able to step back and consider what biases may be influencing us.

By no means have I mastered self-mastery, but the simple act of learning about my thought processes has emboldened me to try harder. You see, at 2A, I’m surrounded by wickedly talented colleagues. But if I want to benefit from all that smart, I need to be able to adopt a growth mindset, get off misguided ladders and check my biases at the door.

I can see there’s something better than any one of us at the intersection of all of us, and that’s where I want to be. Want to come along?