How to Supercharge Your Learning and Self-Improvement: The Golden Ratio of Communication

Mike Sturm
Aug 2, 2017 · 5 min read

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.

Sure, that may not be the real reason we have two ears and one mouth, but it reveals a useful pattern that we see repeated in communication in general.

  • Verbal Communication: speaking and listening
  • Pictorial communication: displaying and viewing

Simply Put, 2:1 Is Key

If we expand Epictetus’s aphorism into a suggestion for how to more effectively communicate, we get something like the following:

When it comes to communication, you should work hard to receive twice as much as you transmit.

In other words, you should listen twice as much as you speak, read twice as much as you write, and pay twice as much attention as you receive. Let me unpack that last one a bit actually, as it’s a bit complex.

Why Aim for a 2:1 Ratio

There are 2 ways that a 2:1 receipt to transmission ratio will help you. The

  1. When you pay more attention to others, you create better relationships. Your life is built on the foundation of your relationships. The better the relationships you have with others, the more fulfilling your life tends to be. There really is no better way to cultivate deep relationships with others — both personal and professional — than paying attention to others. Let them talk more, read what they write, when you’re together, make things about them, rather than you. If you’re really putting forth the effort, they will recognize it and appreciate it. The appreciation that others feel for your generosity will come back to help you down the road. People will be more likely to help you, more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt, and more likely to excuse when you make mistakes. All of these things are essential in achieving both personal and professional goals. It should go without saying that you need other people in order to really do well in your life — no matter what your goals. Simply put, a 2:1 communication ratio is one of the most effective ways to really hook in with other people in a deep and enriching way.

Quick Tips on Better 2:1 Communication

  • Ask more questions When you’re talking with others, try to ask more questions than making statements. Ask follow-ups. Try keeping that up for a while, and really absorb the answers you get.
  • Wait 3 beats after someone else speaks before you speak People are often willing to speak more than we let them. If given the chance, they will elaborate on what they’ve already said. For you, the receiver, this means gaining more information, and a better understanding.
  • Say slightly less than you feel the urge to Like I said in the previous bullet point, people are often willing to keep talking if given the chance. In order to be more receptive, fight that urge. Make simpler statements. If people would like clarification or explanation, let them ask —if they do that, they’ll be more interested in what you say anyway.
  • Make 3 observations about others right away, and make it a habit To help you more effectively pay attention to others, rather than trying to make yourself the center of interactions, make it a habit to be more observant of others. A great way to do this is to make 3 observations about others right when you begin to interact with them. Are they wearing their hair differently? Do they have new clothes? How’s their posture? What is their facial expression telling you? Is their tone of voice relaxed or tense? There are endless observations you can make — and they all help to better solidify your interactions in your own memory. That makes for effective learning and retention, so it also benefits you!

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Mike Sturm

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Working tirelessly to help you think like no one else. Author: “Be, Think, Do” Also Subscribe to my newsletter:

Personal Growth

Sharing our ideas and experiences.