Are you any good at communicating? Find out with our quiz
My book 10 Rules For Talking is about learning to have better conversations. We do this by developing strategies and then using these at the right time.
Don’t be an escalator, a storyteller, a safety-firster or an analyser. Learn all the rules and have flexible strategies for those inevitable pressurised and difficult conversations.
- Agree what you are talking for.
- Accept that agreement takes skill and effort.
- Remember most people are good, competent and worthy of respect.
- Talk fast and slow.
- Keep the conversation safe.
- Use resilience.
- Use rigour.
- Use complexity.
- Reach out.
Now you know these, try my quiz…
There is housework, home-schooling and your own work-from-home job to do. You need help but past requests have not been heeded. What do you say to your partner?
A) “It’s not just about the housework and homework. It’s about fairness and respect. When you help me with the small things I know you care about the big things.”
B) “The dog brought in a river of mud, I’ve a tsunami of work, the child’s academic hopes are on life support and you’re doing nothing. I’m going to erupt like a volcano.”
C) Things get heated. You say, “I am sure we can sort it out, it’s not the end of the world. I didn’t mean to upset you.” You end up doing the housework.
D) “I earn 30 per cent more than you do, so you can do 30 per cent more around the house and watch 30 per cent less Netflix.”
Your partner has dressed nicely for an outing and asks “Does my bum look big in this?” What do you say?
A) “The size of your bum is not the problem; the real issue is your unhealthy lifestyle.”
B) You sing a gender-appropriate version of, “If you were the only girl in the world and I were the only boy… nothing else would matter in the world today, nothing would mar our joy.”
C) You try to avoid the question, but eventually your partner forces you to say, “Your bum does not look big in this.”
D) “The outfit is flattering, but the scales don’t lie.
Tim insists you must remember to respect people
You are in the middle of a Zoom conference call with your boss when you discover that your favourite project is under threat of a budget cut. How are you going to respond?
A) “Everything depends on this project. This cut is absolute nonsense. You are always doing this. It’s about me, isn’t it?”
B) “Times are tough, but dropping this project would be like taking the Mona Lisa out of the Louvre. This is no time to fly the white flag. Sometimes, you have to have your cake and eat it.”
C) You believe in this project. But you can see the pressure your boss is under. You realise from the tone in your boss’s voice that it is better to let this one slide.
D) “Our market research shows that projects of this kind succeed 70 per cent of the time and when they do the return on investment is 240 per cent. It’s probably a good idea to keep going.”
You are walking past a protest next to a statue. A reporter asks for your opinion. How do you respond?
A) “I know he was a benefactor to the town but he did some bad things and his legacy is ruined. The statue has to go.”
B) “Some of the protesters’ feelings are legitimate. I hear them. But extremists can’t hijack protests. We shouldn’t lie about history, the statue must stay.”
C) “This is complex and I’m under pressure. Can I take some time to listen and reflect?”
D) “Let’s take a poll. Like a mini-referendum. Whatever the majority think, let’s do that.”
You can purchase 10 Rules For Talking by Tim Harkness now
A friend reaches out to hug you but current guidelines advise maintaining a one-metre distance. What do you say?
A) “Stop. Do you want to kill me?”
B) “It is what it is. What will be will be. The heart wants what it wants.” You lean in for the hug.
C) “I’m sorry we can’t hug. But at least we can still be close and this won’t last forever.”
D) “The R-rate is 0.9 and the alert level is still high. We have to stay one metre apart.”
Your friend says they do not believe systemic racism is a major problem in this country. How do you respond?
A) “I didn’t realise that you had those racist views.”
B) “Yes. We need justice for all. There is always more that can
be done. But this country isn’t racist. It’s a bastion of tolerance and decency.”
C) You feel strongly that your friend is wrong but you cannot see how to persuade them without getting into an argument. It seems better to let this particular discussion pass.
D) “Do black and white people have different opportunities in life? How could we measure systemic racism objectively? Let’s research this together.”
There are a lot of big conversations happening at the moment, so good communication is vital
Mainly A: Escalator
Escalators raise the emotional stakes because they think the conversation is always about them, a big deal or long-lasting. Escalators need to stay on topic and remember that the person they are talking to is probably well-intentioned (see Rules 1 and 2).
Public figure: Piers Morgan
Mainly B: Storyteller
Storytellers tend to describe the world in metaphors. They say this is like that. Storytellers use emotions and simple, vivid images. They prioritise plausible-sounding explanations over logic, precision and evidence. Storytellers mistake correlation for causation and assume “everything happens for a reason”. Storytellers should use more rigour and complexity (Rules 7 and 8).
Public figure: Boris Johnson
With more people working from home, the way we communicate at work is changing
Mainly C: Safety-Firster
Conversations become unsafe and emotional when someone in the conversation feels their needs, competence, integrity or identity are being questioned. Safety-Firsters keep the conversation safe by putting the other person rst. Conversations do need to be safe (Rule 5) but they also have to be effective. Rule 6 (use resilience) helps us to get better at staying calm and standing our ground when things get tough.
Public figure (in a good way): Jacinda Ardern
Mainly D: Analyser
Analysers are good at using rigour and its components – precision, accuracy, evidence and logic (Rule 7). They see many sides to a story. They talk fast (spontanously and creatively) and slow (precisely and logically). Most conversations call for rigour alongside respect and compassion. Analysis should not be a game of Top Trumps, where my fact beats your fact and I force you to take my point of view. It should be a cooperative exercise where we work together to discover facts and apply logic to reach a shared conclusion.
Public figure: British epidemiologist Neil Ferguson
To buy 10 Rules For Talking by Tim Harkness (£14.99, Blink Books).