23 things I learned in 2023 about how we communicate

23 things I learned in 2023 about how we communicate

Talking is exciting, infuriating, and wonderfully human. As an extrovert and a teacher, I think a lot about communication and how we can make it more enjoyable, intentional, and effective.

Here’s a list of 23 observations I made during the tens of thousands of conversations I had in 2023. They have been curated down from my scattered notes and are written in no particular order.

  1. When people give you advice, they may be signalling an anxiety from their own life.
  2. The actual words in any statement are the shell of an entire cacophony of signals being emitted from the speaker. If you listen carefully you might hear the other intentions every now and then.
  3. Voices get louder the longer a conversation with an initial misunderstanding goes. Make sure you’re always clear on what’s actually being said before turning up your volume knob.
  4. Louder is mostly better for comedic effect or when talking to the wiser among us who are hard of hearing.
  5. The longer you wait before you say something, the more likely it is to be a clearer representation of what you mean to say.
  6. Finishing other people’s sentences is a sign that you might not be listening, even if you fill in the blanks correctly.
  7. When someone asks for help with something, make sure ask them to help you understand the situation first.
  8. The more you love someone the harder it is to say harsh truths, even when they are the ones who will benefit from them the most.
  9. It’s often repeated that talking to strangers can be more cathartic than talking to someone you know. While this may be true, the person who says that may be wishing they had someone close who actually listened.
  10. Most questions are best answered with a question.
  11. A video I once watched said that 80% of your message is conveyed by how rather than what you say. I’m beginning to think it’s more like ~90%.
  12. No discussion is pointless if it led to a good laugh.
  13. Most conversations feel more like people throwing isolated sentences at each other, rather than a back and forth dance.
  14. Talking over food is one of the few things that’s better than talking about food.
  15. Silences are only as awkward as your own ability to sit with silence.
  16. Bars and cafes with music so loud you can’t hear the person you’re with simply didn’t understand the actual point of a bar or cafe.
  17. Acknowledging you tuned out from a conversation might be uncomfortable, but it’s like a luxury mattress compared to being caught tuned out too late in a chat.
  18. Repeating back what someone said is either condescending or affirming, you control the outcome based on your tone.
  19. When someone wants to chat but has nothing to say, they are communicating volumes about how they are feeling.
  20. Hard conversations can make life easier.
  21. Sometimes people say nothing can convince them. More often than I’d like, I’ve had to believe them and move on.
  22. If someone says their hate is justified because they know the other side, it might be themselves they should get to know better.
  23. Learning when to disagree is more productive than learning how to disagree.

This is probably not a comprehensive list of all that I learned, but these are the things that I documented and noticed repeatedly. The world is full of lessons for introspection and this roundup has helped me notice how much I've learned over the last year.

This coming year I'll be focusing a lot more on how we think more intentionally in an increasingly noisy world. If you have any ideas or lessons of your own from 2023 that you want to carry with you into 2024, I'd love to hear them.