Have you ever been on a boat ready to take off? If you look at the people standing at the shore, no one waves. Everyone just watches and waits. But if you start to wave, almost everyone waves back.
The same thing applies to communication: If you open up, people will start opening up as well. Through being open, you will be able to establish a connection. You just have to take that first step.
Why Openness Is An Essential Skill In Today’s Business World
Openness is one of the big-five personality traits. It leads to a willingness to try out new things, to have fresh ideas, and novel experiences. People with high levels of openness are – as Kendra Cherry writes – ‘open-minded and approach new things with curiosity and tend to seek out novelty. They tend to pursue new adventures, experiences, and creative endeavours. They are also very good at thinking about and making connections between different concepts and ideas.’
But openness isn’t easy to cultivate – our brains tend to fight against it, with people taking longer to read and react to statements they believe to be untrue even in situations in which an opinion isn’t asked for. In other words, our brain has shortcuts at the ready when we agree with something. And our brain loves categories, too. As psychologist Kevin Dutton notes:
“We see the world around us in color, but we think in black and white. In categories and pigeonholes.”
It simply takes less energy to slot things into existing categories. Remaining open? That takes effort. But we have to try. Because openness is an essential skill in today’s business world.
We Need A New Kind Of Communication
In a time in which hierarchical structures are falling, we need a new kind of communication, one that is based on openness. Our lives are simply too complex for simple categorisation to be the answer to any modern problem. And this means that trust is eroding for the one-size-fits-all (or, two size fits all) idea of categories and pigeonholes. We are so attuned to the ducking and diving needed to stick to old ideas, we respond to truth and openness in business and in day-to-day life.
But how can we broaden our own perspective, stay away from quick judgements, and be open ourselves so others can connect with us more easily?
Explore New Ideas And Perspectives: Create Your Own Lunch Talk
Our minds are limited and dependent on the ideas and perspectives we impose on them too. That is the reason why a lot of companies invest in formats such as lunch talks, to bring outside voices in.
But what about creating your own lunch talk? There are so many podcasts or YouTube Channels to explore these days. Try to let some new voices into your life on a regular basis.
Try listening to new ideas and perspectives with an open mind. Snap judgement is natural – but we can make ourselves aware of it.
Openness is a muscle we can train.
Sharing Your Story
When it comes to openness, sharing your own story is a key element. Think of the boat example.
When you share your own story, people will share theirs and feel more connected.
We all feel we know Barack Obama, because he was so good at sharing his story. And America’s story. From his Democratic Convention speech in 2004 onwards, that narrative that hope was possible carried Obama through a candidacy, and two terms as president.
Likewise, political change on hot-button issues is often facilitated by personal storytelling. On an individual level, voters change their minds on issues like same-sex marriage and abortion when they meet and hear the stories of real people who have been effected. This doesn’t always lead to immediate policy change, but it does create an environment of openness and discussion which eventually turns the tide.
This is a reliable way to get people to care about serious issues. From David Attenborough telling stories of the Earth on The Green Planet, to Obama doing the same on a more personal and close-to-home level in his new series, Our Great National Parks on Netflix, personal storytelling is key to getting people to take the time to care.
So how can you get started?
How To Get Started?
Take some simple easy steps:
Don’t just share what you are doing, but why it is important
Oftentimes, we lose ourselves in the “what” level of what we are doing. Level up your communication easily, by explaining why you are doing a project?
Rule of Thirds: Don’t focus on yourself too much
Sharing your story does not mean you should suddenly just talk about yourself. Quite the opposite. Good storytelling always focuses on something more. I always apply the Rule of Thirds in my practice, which is a photography method. Think about your story like a picture. It is not just you who is there, but also your audience and the idea you want to talk about.
The Big Picture and the Story of Us
This advice ties right back up to the last one. Stories are what connects us. Think about your audience, which can also be just one other person. Most of the things we encounter or that are happening to us, are actually not so special. Chances are, other people have the same worries, fears, and dreams. Don’t just tell your own story, tell a story of us.
We Need To Find A New Way To Communicate
In 2022, a time that is so complex, it is important to connect on a deeper level. The way through is to be open – to keep an open mind, but also to open ourselves up to other people. This applies to the way we work, and to leadership.
We must foster a culture of openness and communication within our workplace. And make an effort to connect with employees, customers, partners, and also ourselves.