I was a quiet kid. So much so that people would comment on it. I never went out of my way to begin conversations. Growing up this way in school I was never really taught to communicate very well.
We were taught to write, but the writing was focused on being very academic. It would focus on things like grammatical correctness and factual correctness but wouldn’t focus on getting a message across to a specific audience. Even though those aspects were mentioned they were never “taught.”
We had to do only a handful of talks through my entire grade school experience. We were never given any mentoring or instruction on how to discuss ideas or to persuade and audience. Presumably if you elect to take public speaking classes, you will learn those things, but quiet people who may benefit from the experience the most are unlikely to elect to take those classes.
Most of the writing in your life isn’t going to be academic writing. Most of the speaking in your life isn’t going to be public speaking or debates. You’re going to spend your life writing mostly emails, social media posts, and maybe blogs. You’re mostly going to be talking to friends, family, or colleagues.
These are the things that school should talk about but they don’t. If you can have meaningful informal discussions you can surely have meaningful formal discussions.
This didn’t change for me in college. I avoided any subjects or classes that required me to talk and while my writing got a little better, it was only academically.
When I finally graduated and entered the workforce I found out that this was a problem. There came times where I wanted to discussion ideas, problems, or directions but struggled to do so.
I realized I needed to improve my communication skills but didn’t know how.
I decided to try to speak up more in meetings, write more emails, and take any opportunities that came to me to speak in front of groups. The problem was, in the workplace, a lot of opportunities didn’t come up. And I wanted to limit how much I spoke out of turn so I wouldn’t come across as that guy.
Eventually my fiancé and I had a kid. We decided for various reasons (e.g. cost and trustability of childcare) it would be best for me to stay home with him. This was just over 6 months ago now.
During that time I was looking for projects to work on. At first I was looking at various programming projects but I didn’t really have the proper time or motivation. Eventually I realized this could be an opportunity to develop other skills I was lacking.
I decided to learn to draw and paint, something I’ve always wanted to do. I also decided to do it publicly. Meaning, I would blog and YouTube about the journey. I thought this would help other people who were struggling to start and I would be able to develop my communication skills. So far I think it’s working.
There’s one thing you always encounter when you study photography, cinematography, painting, drawing, speaking, or writing. That thing is storytelling. So what I realized when starting this project was that I wanted to be a better storyteller.
The brain doesn’t understand in a linear way but it builds that understanding in a linear way because time is linear and attention is limited. In order to learn and subsequently to teach the brain needs to be able to package and unpackaged linear information into knowledge.
So our brain learns through stories. Not only our own stories, but other people’s stories. Being able to share our stories is the most important skill a person can develop. You can have the best ideas in the world but if you can’t share them, it doesn’t matter.
The only way to get better at telling stories is to tell a lot of stories. You have to try, fail, and then try again. If you keep telling them, paying attention to your failures, and try to make them better, they will get better.