Is It Possible To Teach Face-To-Face Communications?

ConversationRecently, a colleague mentioned he is encouraging his teenage children to enhance their communication skills.  Specifically, he is coaching them on issues such as how to shake hands, maintain eye contact, speak directly, and otherwise relate in a more personalized manner.  Was I shocked to hear this?  Not really.  To a certain extent, the proliferation of advanced technologies and social media have served to repress our custom of face-to-face communications on multiple levels. That said, can ‘people skills’ be taught?  Absolutely.  However, in my opinion, implementing interpersonal skills falls under the category of ‘experiential learning.’  In other words, proficiency is earned through action – in real time.  Allow me to explain.

Might You Be Interested In Building A Relationship With Me?

When I was 4-years-old, my family and I moved to a small suburb outside of Chicago, where we lived in a modest home on a partially, undeveloped street.  At that time, there were very few neighbors and therefore, a scarce number of children on our block.  Determined not to let a shortage of kids stop me, I regularly ventured off in search of potential playmates.  Up one block – then down the next – I would knock on doors as I practiced a prepared speech in my head.  When someone answered the door, I boldly stated in my 4-year-old voice: “Hi, my name is Carie.  Do you have anyone my age that I can play with?”  (Keep in mind  – this was the 60s. This was the suburbs.  And, like other young children of that era, I was fearless and perfectly safe.)  Eventually, my mother would receive a phone call informing her of my whereabouts – and to let her know I was okay.  More importantly, though, I became increasingly comfortable introducing myself and meeting new people this way.

How About Some Girl Scout Cookies?  Everyone Needs Girl Scout Cookies!

Girl ScoutSeveral years later, I became a Girl Scout and each year, I walked up one block – then down the next – peddling Girl Scout Cookies.  Equipped with an arsenal of cookie boxes, I dilligently approached as many potential customers as possible – while at the same time – tirelessly trying to unload enough cookies to meet my goals.  In retrospect, the practical business development and relationship building experience I garnered during this time was invaluable.  And, just think.  All that priceless, real-time training earned from selling cookies costing a measly 50 cents per box.

What’s So Great About Talking Anyway?!

It’s true.  We all have days when we don’t feel like talking very much.  Although, in my particular case, friends and family would be hard pressed to support this notion (according to my mom, I started speaking in complete sentences when I was 18-months-old and haven’t stopped since.)  But seriously, some days we just feel like emailing or texting or sitting behind a computer – in our pajamas.  Anything other than meeting people on a one-to-one basis!  Of course, the Internet has made connecting simpler as ‘door-to-door’ has become a thing of the past. Yet, I believe the fundamental skills many of us learned years ago are equally as relevant (if not more so) when it comes to marketing ourselves.

So What If You Didn’t Start Networking And Prospecting When You Were 4-Years-Old?

I’m reminded of an old joke I heard years ago.  A lost tourist in New York City stops to ask a local businessman for directions:  “Pardon me, Sir.  Can you please tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?”  The businessman replies:  “Practice!  Practice! Practice!”  Competence is accomplished through repetition.  Tasks get easier the more frequently we practice them.  Remember, we’re all works in progress and we never stop learning.  Personally, I will make room for self-improvement – forever.  Sure, our goals change.  Our world changes.  And, we all do our best to adapt.  But, some things never change.  After all, you can’t learn to make eye contact from a text message.

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