It Takes Work: Lesson in Communication from a Dancer

Some people seem to think that good dancers are born. All of the good dancers I’ve known have been taught or trained.”

-Fred Astaire

Ballroom Dance 1Dancers are not born; they are made through rigorous training and perseverance. The life of a dancer is not an easy one. Dancers train their bodies to twist and contort in sometimes painful and unnatural ways. Dancers are constantly practicing to keep getting better, to keep getting stronger. Dancers stand on their stage and have to embody, with every breath they take and every small movement they make, the story they are trying to portray.

I am a dancer. And I often hear people say that they cannot dance. I hear them say that they cannot dance because they do not know how to move with grace or they have ‘two left feet.’ And so the myth is born that some people just naturally are good dancers, and others are not.

Everyone can dance—they just need to find their own rhythm to connect to their body.

But it takes work. It takes dedication. It takes training.

For as long as I have been training as a dancer, I have also been training as a communicator. And over time I have realized that this same myth also exists in communication: Some people think good communicators are born; but all of the good communicators I know have been taught or trained. And this myth has similar origins as those of the dancing myth. We start talking when we are two and learn to read and write in early childhood. We communicate as often as we move (often at the same time), and in the same ways we are not always aware of our how we move, we are not always aware of how we communicate.

And yet, while we know that becoming a good dancer takes work and training, far fewer believe that of communication. But becoming a good communicator takes the same level of work and intention as becoming a good dancer does.

And the stakes are far greater to communicate well, especially for those in positions of leadership. A leader’s ability to communicate effectively can determine whether or not they can win the trust and confidence of those who matter most to their organization. It can determine whether or not a leader can inspire people to support their work. In extreme cases, it can determine whether or not an organization will succeed or fail.

Like dancing, everyone has the capacity to communicate effectively. They just need to put the work into learning how to do it well.

Just as dancers need to dedicate themselves to train their bodies to move effectively, leaders need that same discipline and dedication to become good communicators.

Great communicators are not born. It takes work.