The 'Secret' of Success Made Simple

Stuart Wood examines what underpins the success of every strategy & methodology. His 'solution' is simple, free to implement & produces remarkable results. It only takes willingness, time & commitment to master, plus a bit of failure.


Are There Any Secrets to Success?

[There are no secrets to success]Success built solely on methodology is a fragile structure that cannot weather life's storms.

People & organisations claim to have the success formula; an app, a method, a secret technique.

We love 'instant solutions', a sort of 'press a button & our problem is solved'.

But, however we define success, it requires commitment, effort & resilience. It needs the human touch. Technology, methodology, apps & training are all useless without us human beings. It is HOW we implement them that brings change/success.

Ultimately, success boils down to the quality of our relationships.

 

Communication, Relationship & Trust

These are what I call the 3 basic building blocks of life. I would like to show how these 3 elements form a cycle. Each element depends upon the others.

Our relationships work best when we feel secure within them & able to be ourselves. High quality communication allows our relationships to develop & deepen, building trust which further strengthens the relationship. It is a cycle.

But we must beware. Relationships are two-way & not all turn out to be helpful or healthy. The cycle can be negatively-reinforced by input from both parties. Fear lurks in the wings, ready to destroy. Betrayal or suspicion can dismantle both the cycle & the relationship in an instant.

 

What is Communication?

'The transmission or exchange of information, knowledge, or ideas, by means of speech, writing, mechanical or electronic media.'

Oxford English Dictionary

 

[Face-to-face communication is most effective]This definition includes the word 'exchange'. Communication is a two-way process.

Communication is a mixture of verbal & non-verbal interaction. When we are with others we can communicate much more effectively because human beings are 'designed for face-to-face'. We use all the senses we have & if one or more are deficient or missing, the others compensate for this. Communication is a whole body experience. Inputs to our brain from each sense provide us with a multi-dimensional perspective of the situation, rather than just one dimension.

It is not how much we communicate but the quality of what we communicate that makes the difference.

At the heart of communication is understanding, by both parties. The clearer we are, the better we are understood. But as we mentioned above, communication is a two-way process so we must be able to listen, not just speak, because feedback lets us know how well we are being understood. What is clear to us may be incomprehensible to the other party so listening helps us to repeat, modify or continue as appropriate. Mutual understanding amongst participants is the goal & much more important than eloquent delivery.

If we are the type of people who become irritated when people ask us questions or for clarification, then we have a serious problem. If, every time somebody asks or tells us something we bark at them, are sarcastic or demeaning, they will stop talking to us & THEN the problems really begin!

We may hide behind our technology because of personal insecurities. The technology then becomes a barrier, rather than asset. Technology can be useful but is never a substitute for clear communication. If we do not learn how to communicate clearly & effectively face-to-face, technology will only make things worse. It hinders rather than helps.

When I searched for images relating to 'communication' in a search engine, nearly all the images shown included some type of technology: a 'phone, tablet or laptop. They seemed to shout, 'Technology is essential for communication'. I found very few with just people talking together, face-to-face. Communicating through a device immediately excludes many of the senses that are important for understanding & developing relationships with others.

 

Developing Relationships

'The way in which two people, groups or countries behave towards each other or deal with each other'.

Oxford Learner's Dictionaries

 

[Developing relationships through our communication]Communication allows us to exchange facts & also to make judgements about those with whom we interact.

The definition includes the word 'behaviour' which is based on our feelings towards someone. Therefore, relationship is not just based on being practical & exchanging information, it includes our emotions, the strongest drivers of the decisions we make. The decisions we make dictate how we will get on as time progresses.

Some research suggests we take around one-tenth-of-a-second to form an impression of a stranger from their face. Longer exposure doesn’t significantly alter those impressions, but they might boost confidence in our judgements. We make this initial assessment using all of our senses, which is why it is easier for us to be duped over the 'phone than face-to-face; our brain does not have as much information to use to formulate an accurate assessment.

However, even our initial judgement from a face-to-face encounter can be wildly wrong, because judgement is about making sensible decisions after carefully considering the best thing to do. We simply do not have time to do that within the first few seconds. Our initial assessment is based upon our own preferences & priorities. Why do conmen often dress very smartly & speak well?

As we develop relationships with each other, our view often changes. This is because we get to know the other person better through listening & spending time with them. How well we get to know them & they get to know us hinges upon communication. The QUALITY of our relationship depends directly upon the QUALITY of our communication.

Good relationships develop when both parties can be vulnerable, open & honest. For that to happen, we must develop trust.

 

How Do We Build Trust?

'The belief that somebody/something is good, sincere, honest, etc. and will not try to harm or trick you.'

Oxford Learner's Dictionaries

 

[Trust involves more than one person]The level of trust we develop depends upon the quality of our relationship, which depends upon the quality of our communication.

As we get to know people better, our brain uses a combination of our past interactions, recorded in subconscious areas as memories. These are scanned & made sense of by our rational, thinking ('cognitive') areas of the brain. So we develop our relationship & also our trust.

I love the above definition of trust because it involves the elements good, sincere, honest, not try to harm you or trick you. These are all our interpretations of the other person through our experiences with them.

Trust grows through experience & as it increases, our communication changes to include more personal details, about parts of us they haven't seen or heard of before. As this happens our relationship develops and deepens. Daring to expose our inner self to others is risky and is called vulnerability. It is an essential part of healthy relationships that can only develop when we reach a certain level of trust. Brené Brown, a world authority on vulnerability describes it beautifully:

'Uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.' It's that unstable feeling we get when we step out of our comfort zone or do something that forces us to loosen control.'

I think that the dictionary definition falls short in its description of the power of vulnerability. It seems to prefer the more common view that vulnerability is about weakness and being easily hurt, physically or emotionally. I see this definition as a risk of vulnerability. We only share something this personal when we are confident that we won't be 'harmed or tricked'.

Where communication is the oil for a smooth, low-friction relationship, trust is the glue that holds it together.

 

A Word of Warning

So far, we have looked at how to achieve the best in a relationship.

But what happens when things go wrong?

No relationship is immune from difficulty which is why good communication, relationship & trust are essential: they allow us to weather the storms, make amends, adjust & move forward. They help us to develop resilience that allows us to bounce back from these setbacks.

However, there are occasions where relationships do not survive & in many cases this is down to the attitudes of each person involved.

Relationship, like most other things, involves a spectrum, or variety, of emotions, actions & intensity. Few survive prolonged, full-on intensity & few survive neglect. A twenty-first century cancer is the concept of 'hater'. No longer can we agree to disagree. Someone must be right so the other must be wrong. We have lost nuance & the ability to debate & resolve. Offence has replaced discussion; attack has replaced looking for common ground; online assassination has replaced face-to-face reasoning & resolution.

Social media has many benefits, but it also appeals to & promotes a particular mindset, attracting a particular type of individual because it feeds their needs.

Let me explain.

As some of us grow-up, we find it hard to trust others. Perhaps it is through abuse by a loved one, a friend or a stranger. Perhaps it is because we were never set boundaries & got everything we wanted at home, only to find that in the real world we didn't come first. These can be traumatising situations from which the child either:

[Narcissism - let's focus on me & my needs]The main problem with narcissists is that they must be the centre of attention & to achieve this they are manipulators, coercive, emotionally abusive & pathological liars. However, the only person likely to see this is their partner because narcissists live a double life: their partner sees the truth whilst those looking-on see the carefully curated mask which shows absolutely nothing of their true self.

Narcissists are toxic to all relationships. You will encounter them as work colleagues, managers, friends, family members. Wherever they are, they destroy, but then refuse to accept responsibility for their actions. Remember, in their world, they can do no wrong & admitting faults or failings is a sign of weakness that must never happen. Anyone & everyone else is blamed. Look for high staff turnover at work, dysfunctional relationships between family members & between friends, community & religious leaders who hold their flock just a little too tightly. Look out for a need to control & then, stay clear.

Narcissists are masters of deceit who cause a living hell for those with whom they have close contact. Narcissistic relationships are dysfunctional because they lack empathy. They focus solely on the narcissist's wants & needs. Those around are used as pawns in a chess game, readily sacrificed to achieve the narcissist's goal.

 

The Communication Relationship Trust Cycle

[CRTCycle - The Communication Relationship Trust Cycle]It is the intimate & interdependent relationship between communication, relationship & trust that makes groups of people so powerfully constructive or powerfully destructive.

Those who invest time & effort into their relationships, who make mistakes & correct them & who allow for faults in the other individual, enjoy contentment, happiness & greater job satisfaction. Organisations with this type of environment have longer staff retention times & lower staff.

Most uplifting & motivating stories we hear come from relationships that have withstood the most intense circumstances: stories from conflicts; battles with addiction or illness; tragedy.

This cycle, which I call the CRTCycleTM (short for Communication-Relationship-Trust Cycle), can be powerfully creative or powerfully destructive, depending upon the input from both parties. It can create joy or it can create pain.

As an example, the greatest business successes have strong relationships at their core, both within the company & with those they serve. Then consider the collapse of major world powers over the centuries. Most fall-apart through poor relationships of one kind or another. Cracks appear in their structures which cannot withstand even the slightest pressure from outside.

When we pay attention to how we treat others, relate to them & communicate with them, we build strong bonds which withstand pressures from outside & keep internal pressures under control. A team may only consist of two members, but it is still powerful for change.

 

Where Can We Apply The CRTCycleTM?

[The CRTCycle works everywhere]Honing our communication skills, develops deeper relationships & stronger trust. The principle can be applied everywhere we go: home & family, employment, leisure, community, sport.

The powerhouse of a relationship is the two-way exchange. When that fails to happen, achieving anything meaningful for a sustained period of time is difficult, even impossible.

But we WILL encounter those people, often in situations over which we have little control!

Dealing with that for ourselves is a subject for discussion with experts who can help.

From my own experience, I have always found that keeping my side of the bargain enables me to know that I have done my best. We cannot always achieve the optimum, but that does not mean we should not try to make the best of a poor situation. We should never allow others to steal our sense of purpose or achievement. There are some relationships that will never become deep. That is normal & it is not a problem. By keeping our communication open & clear, the relationship is given its best chance, even though trust may not be optimum. In such situations my job satisfaction was still high because it was about knowing I was doing the right thing. It certainly did not compromise my personal performance, only my rate of progression 'upwards'. I was always happier knowing that I had done my best which was appreciated by those I served.

However, emotional response to controlling, micro-managing types, the narcissists, where there is no trust on our part, is a different issue. It is not easy to keep our emotions out of decisions because they drive them. However, separating our sense of self-worth from what others think about us is very helpful & useful. Their opinion is no more than exactly that.

If you are in a business whose internal culture is fuelled by narcissism, from the top down, I would recommend looking elsewhere to use you skills & talents.

If we fail to fit in consistently, then we need to look at our own priorities, feelings, empathy etc to check-out whether we are the one that needs to change or go.

 

How Does Fear Damage Relationships?

[How fear destroys relationships]Fear damages relationships in the same way that sand destroys an engine. It causes friction, blockages, wearing down of the working parts, bringing everything to a halt.

The CRTcycle is powerful, but it is also fragile. Communication, relationship & trust are all targets for fear. Just as the cycle builds & is held together by these elements, so it may be destroyed by taking away, reducing or compromising those same elements.

It only takes one of the parties to break the cycle by introducing fear through mistrust, betraying promises or breaking confidences. This fear then fuels further mistrust, shutting down communication, encouraging us to keep things to ourselves rather than sharing. The relationship is poisoned & eventually destroyed.

The problem with fear is that it is 'transferable' within our brain. Fear is not isolated to one experience but is assembled based upon our previous experiences, especially relating to danger.

But just as we learn fear from our experiences, so we can tackle our memories & experiences to dismantle fear. This is the basis of encounter therapy used by clinical psychologists. Overcoming fears in one area helps us to overcome fears in another, either by overcoming the fear directly, or by showing ourselves that we have the ability to overcome fears, even those we didn't think we could.

So the good news is that we needn't be bound by our fears per se because when we learn to face fears & overcome them, we have a transferable method that we can use. Overcoming one fear builds our confidence to tackle & overcome a different kind of fear in a different area of life.

This is the premise for what Meet The Beasts seeks to do through our 'scary' animal encounters. We take a strong stimulus of fear, such as a spider (tarantula), snake, lizard or cockroach, enable people to safely encounter the animals & overcome their fears. The experience is embedded in their brain through their experience & also emotionally. This builds confidence to try new things that we may otherwise find impossible because of fear paralysis or freezing.


If you are interested in finding out more, please contact Stuart using the details immediately below.

 

Return to the 'Understanding Made Simple' contents page for more articles.


Meet The Beasts: Contact Information

More Information From:

Dr Stuart Wood
c/o Meet the Beasts
31 Burder Street
Loughborough
Leics
LE11 1JH

Telephone: + 44 1509 553362
Mobile: + 44 7814 628123
E-mail: stuart@meetthebeasts.com