Better Communication

Many people equate good communication skills with the ability to speak well and listen well. This assumption misses one essential component: two-way communication skills.

Primarily written for mentors, this advice on good two-way communication is particularly useful for all. I especially like the Traffic Light Rule of communication:

During the first 30 seconds of an utterance, your light is green. That means your protégé is listening and not thinking you talk too much. During the next 30 seconds, your light is yellow. That means the risk is increasing that your listener is bored, overwhelmed, or dying to respond. After the one-minute mark, your light is red. Yes, occasionally, you can go beyond a minute, for example, when telling an interesting story, but generally you should stop or ask a question.



4 responses to “Better Communication”

  1. Pauly S


  2. Pauly,

    May I ask if it took you longer than one minute to read this?

    Anyway, thanks for the constructive comment; please feel free to offer your analysis on some of my other posts.

    Only joking, of course! Thanks for the lovely comment.

  3. Anonymous

    This is based on the attention span typical in the USA. It would be quite different in other countries. In some cultures the first 30 sec is expected to be the “introduction”, the “setting of the scene” for any statement by a reasonably sophisticated person and hence not the “prime time”.

  4. Hi there (Anon),

    Thanks for the comment, although I feel I must disagree:

    Apart from your gross generalisation about the typical U.S. citizen’s attention span, I think you’re quite correct—although missing the point.

    Everywhere we go (regardless of international borders) your point holds true: the first 30 seconds to a minute are introductory, depending on the context… and in the context that this advice is supposed to be taken I feel that the ‘Traffic Light Rule’ is wholly valid.

    Of course, the trick is not to take this advice too literally—nobody should time themselves talking—but instead simply be aware of time passing while engaging in a two-way discussion.