Michael Costigan is a 17 – year-old from Orange County, CA. He is a social entrepreneur, public speaker, and truly enjoys helping other’s better understand teen related issues. You can follow him at www.SpeakingofMichael.com
People attribute othersʼ success to many things: luck, opportunity, may be even something as gimmicky as “The Secret”. While things like existing wealth and good connections can help give you a leg up in life — thereʼs a common denominator that almost every successful person Iʼve talked to shares — be it in their work, family, or relationships.
Theyʼre one of a kind communicators.
As teens, weʼre always trying to find a way to advance ourselves. Whether it be interpersonally, relationship wise, or just in a general social way. Unlike adults, weʼre often energized to take risks for what we want. Weʼre more resilient — and weʼre less likely to quit if what we do doesnʼt go our way first time around. These are our best qualities. These qualities though, they mean nothing if weʼre not pairing them with equally awesome communication skills.
1. Great communication is learned, not innate.
Ever watch a TV show and wonder how the girl or guy always knows the perfect line to say? Rarely is that the case in real life. Sometimes itʼs a lack of confidence that interferes with our abilities to be catchy on the spot, other times, itʼs because well, letʼs be honest we just donʼt know what to say! Television is scripted. Even reality TV. The great part about life is itʼs not. Or at least it shouldnʼt be. Having a trained response to being able to work well in all situations is just that, trained. Itʼs having an innumerable amount of conversations with people you donʼt know well, itʼs listening carefully and posing thoughtful responses, and itʼs learning how to adjust your conversational skills to best fit the person youʼre conversing with. Televangelists, the Sham-Wow guy, politicians, theyʼre all great communicators. So much so that we often lose track of our senses and begin to listen to what theyʼre telling us whether or not we actually agree with it. Effective communication doesnʼt have to hypnotize people (although that may help) it merely has to be structured. Iʼm someone who likes to be straightforward with whatever Iʼm asking about, whether thatʼs for a favor or a privilege. I think the combination of being direct and honest will gain you credit for being someone who doesnʼt sugarcoat things, or dance around an issue that could risk making you come off as inauthentic in your concern. State your intentions clearly -> follow through.
2. Think about people who always seem to get what they want…
You know exactly who these people are. Sometimes theyʼre friends of yours. The kids with the push over parents, or the people who always wind up getting elected to ASB, voted for prom queen/king, etc etc. Itʼs easy to write off their “popularity” and people skills as just high school hype, but as you go out and work with the rest of the world, youʼll find these people still exist. Theyʼre not getting help from their parents anymore either. And so this concept got me thinking, what was it that was making them so successful with others? I believe itʼs their ability to communicate. Theyʼre ability tocaptivate, market themselves, and sometimes even mesmerize all at once. They have an uncanny ability to make an impression on you and leave the conversation five minutes later with you feeling like youʼve known them a lot longer than you have. Confidence + substance + eloquence will likely make you stand out amongst even a large group of people. The oneʼs who get the attention are never the ones fighting for it. Always remember that. As far as your being goes, youʼve got to bring with you more than just an interest in talking. People are instantly more likely to gravitate towards those who project their lives around themselves. Thereʼs two ways to do this — a right way, and a VERY annoying way. The first way will make people want to know more about you, think of it as a way of getting people to think talking to you is worth their time. The second way is the way every “it” girl in high school accomplishes this — by being the center of attention (for %10) of the school. Pick your choice.
3. Communication is multi-faceted: verbal, body language, contextual, reputation.
Letʼs break it down…
Verbal: Articulation neednʼt mean being a Toastmaster, no definitely not. In fact I think the more wrote you are the more boring you are to listen to. Work your natural quirks. You never know you will end up liking them. (Yes I did just play off of that always smile thing you never know whoʼs falling in love with it. Yuck.)
Body Language: Is EVERYTHING. I cannot stress that enough. The way you carry yourself, present yourself, dress — they all make up your presence. You can either be defining or you can be lost in the crowd. Confidence is not only associated with the way you speak to others, but also the way you present yourself. I could go on and on about this, but I think perhaps the best thing to do is to just be aware of it. The next time you go out, put it on your mind every once and awhile, how am I walking, up-straight or slumped, are my hands uninvitingly across my chest or are they causally in my pockets or at my sides.
Contextual: Letʼs face it. Sometimes the environment around you prevents the type of conversation youʼre hoping to have. Thereʼs a reason people arenʼt creative at the office and so they go outside (or more often than not a Starbucks). I think keeping the context of what youʼre trying to get across communicatively should be equally matched with the environment youʼre in. Sometimes that party environment is perfect for being able to get to know someone better, sometimes itʼs not and that person is distracted by someone else. Being in the right environment makes or breaks the conversation. If you have to, change the environment, move — thereʼs no harm in trying.
Reputation: If you have a reputation for being boring, youʼre going to have to shake that. Most likely with something significantly daring enough that you can break the mold already cast around you. Donʼt be someone your not. Be someone you want to be. Chances are if youʼre looking for ways to improve your communication youʼre not being who you want to be right now as it is. Change starts with you.
4. Sometimes saying less is more.
Nobody likes that person that talks and talks and talks (I would know, itʼs usually me). Listening is invaluable, and really shows people that you care about what they have to say, their opinions, and their views. It also pays off later when you want to be clever and jump back to things they have previously said. This goes right in line with being observant. I promise you this skill WILL help you immensely. Whether itʼs at work with a boss who will appreciate youʼre attentiveness and willingness to make things happen, or with a parent whoʼs nagging you, sometimes it pays to listen and move on.