The concept of what we can learn from toddlers isn’t new, in fact it is well documented. Just one example would be the book written by the founder of Ella’s Kitchen, Paul Lindley: Little Wins, the huge power of thinking like a toddler.
Despite the plethora of information and advice that is out there, I don’t think many of us put these theories into practice. As an adoptive mum to a very active toddler, I was not surprised to hear that my son had been painting with cars at nursery last week.
The children had decided they didn’t want to use paintbrushes. Instead, they found the patterns from the wheels of the toy cars were far more exciting. This got me thinking about the way our son plays.
Thankfully, his nursery embraces his creativity and imagination. He isn’t told what he should do with the toys or what the intention of the manufacturer was. His teachers simply let him adopt and adapt the items he plays with to suit his game.
So, taking a step back, I started to think more about what we can learn from toddlers.
Saying hello and goodbye
When we go shopping our son will wave from the trolley at everyone we pass and say ‘hello’. He smiles and more often than not people stop what they are doing, look less serious and say ‘hello’ in return.
As well as teaching him that manners cost you nothing, he has learnt that saying hello makes people smile and engage with you. He has also realised that if he says, ‘goodbye everyone, see you later’ and waves as we leave, people laugh. Another positive response that makes him, and them, feel good.
In business, I feel we forget the basics of how to engage positively with people.
We are stressed and have lists of actions to complete. There are not enough hours in the day, and we can’t always plan for whatever challenge we need to address next. The problem however isn’t any of these things. It’s that we pass on our negativity to others through the way we communicate.
We forget that the tone of an email could make or break someone’s day. The language we use on the phone matters. And the way that we ask someone to do a task will impact on the outcome. What some people seem to forget is that being rude doesn’t empower you.
From now on, I am going to remember the value of saying hello and goodbye.
Children are honest. Brutally so sometimes. Although this can create some embarrassing and uncomfortable situations on occasion, toddlers have a point.
When we are honest, we all know what we are working with. There are no secrets or hidden facts. Nothing is going to crop up that will change the path or outcome of our work. Conversely, when people are dishonest, it makes life difficult.
I think if we are all more honest, life will be simpler. Don’t hide costs, sell an idea that is unattainable or say you can do something you cannot. People will always respect you more for being honest.
Getting things wrong and saying sorry
Toddlers get things wrong, a lot. They are learning how to navigate this crazy world and the challenges that crop up along the way. More importantly, in the case of our son, he now knows when to say sorry.
Unlike adults, toddlers will say sorry without hesitation. They aren’t embarrassed by admitting they have made a mistake and they know that to say sorry is the right thing to do.
As adults, we’ve realised that there is an awkwardness to admitting we’ve messed up. The truth is that this doesn’t detract from the fact that saying sorry is still the right thing do.
In business, it may be that saying sorry becomes an admission of guilt. What we need to decide is whether we want to create a culture of covering our own backsides or learning from mistakes and embracing the honesty and strength of someone that says sorry.
Seeing the best in everything
Everything is exciting when you are two or three. The simplest of things. Bubbles are a classic example. Our son will run outside and shout ‘wow, wow, wow!’ when we blow bubbles in the garden.
Easily pleased, perhaps. Able to see the best in everything, absolutely.
What toddlers will do is add imagination to the dullest of tasks. They make everything into a game through their ability to think beyond the obvious. We all know that to keep a child happy for minutes you give them a toy. If you want to keep them entertained for hours, let them play with a cardboard box.
I think adults can learn a lot from this. We need to stop obsessing about the toy and start to think how we make our work as exciting as a cardboard box. We need to get back to effortlessly adding the imagination, creativity and storytelling to tasks.
It seems to me that when something is fun, we have been conditioned to forget that it can still be work. There is nothing wrong with loving your job or making a task simpler through adding some imagination or play.
Perhaps if we tried to do this more, we would all be happier, and I suspect our relationships and results would be stronger.
As children we make friends with people that resonate with us. Often there are similarities and shared interests. Toddlers may like the same games or songs. They may just enjoy the company of one another. Relationships are uncomplicated.
As adults, we make assumptions. The process of making friends is muddied by experience and expectations.
While it’s important to choose our friends wisely, maybe we should be more open to getting to know people that are less of an obvious fit. Embracing our differences, rather than letting them define us, could give us all greater opportunities to learn.
Within any business network, there are so many people. Every single one has something unique to share. When we think like that, the power of our connections become very real. Making friends in business is just as important as in our personal lives. What’s more, the two can be interchangeable.
Now that we are all allowed back out, I’m going to make more effort to meet with people that wouldn’t typically have been those I would gravitate to.
Taking the time to laugh
Finally, this should be simple, but for adults we seem to forget how to laugh. Again, using our son as an example, he has recently learnt to ‘fake laugh’. He sounds like Woody the Woodpecker and has realised that when he does this people around him will giggle too.
Every single day our son will laugh out loud. He will giggle, fake laugh, belly laugh and chuckle.
When we are at work and in pressured environments, it can be almost impossible to take the time to laugh. The thought makes us cringe. After all, we have too much to do to be taking time to be silly or to do something that doesn’t deliver a return.
Again, if we think slightly differently about this, I think having a laugh is invaluable. When we are happier, we deliver better results. We attract the right people. Everything feels more positive. It may not be the easiest thing to implement, but I’m going to try to laugh more.
It makes me feel good and I think that is worth working towards.
I hope that you enjoyed this blog and that you may even have found something to take away. For more insight from the team at Open Comms, simply visit: Blog · Open Comms · PR agency in Wakefield, West Yorkshire