Communication lessons from Winnie The Pooh

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This Monday is Winnie The Pooh Day, celebrated on what would have been author A.A.Milne’s birthday. One of my favourite childhood stories, the adventures of Winnie the Pooh and the other animals that inhabit Hundred Acre Wood, have plenty of heartwarming lessons and inspirational messages for all of us, at any stage of life.

I was reading through some of the most famous and well loved of Pooh Bear’s quotes, and it made me think about how and why these messages are so powerful, and what makes the writing so compelling for both children and adults, as much now as it did in 1926 when the stories were first published.

He’s honest

The beauty of Winnie The Pooh is his honesty – in what he says and does. As with a child, he sees things at face value, as they are, and says it how it is. We see life portrayed clearly and honestly through all of the characters, whether it’s the downtrodden Eyore, or the hyperactive Tigger. This draws us in, building trust and creating an emotional connection to the characters.

He doesn’t try to hide or disguise his personality

The characters are all ‘flawed’, there is no normal – everyone is different. These differences are acknowledged and each character is loved and accepted, despite their perceived flaws and faults. The characters are true to themselves, Milne gave them all such clear and unique personalities and every story reminds us of these differences and the fact that we should never be afraid to show our personalities.

He keeps things simple

The language, the storylines, the messaging, the dialogue – it’s all very simple. Pooh doesn’t like to overcomplicate things, and this makes his messages accessible to a wider range of people, and easier to digest, understand and retain.

He’s mindful

Stop. Think. Act. Winnie The Pooh does not rush! The writing is well punctuated and focuses on one message and action at a time. Pooh thinks before he speaks and does everything very slowly and deliberately. The action/story is focussed on the moment, he doesn’t worry about the future or the past, and tries to help his friend Piglet to do the same. Keeping the action and story in the present tense also allows us as readers to be mindful and to absorb the messages and enjoy the story here and now for what it is.

He recognises the importance of listening

One of the messages that is constantly reiterated by the characters is the importance of listening properly. This is a skill that most of us could do with developing. As communicators, we are all too keen to talk, whereas listening, which is much more important, is often not seen as a priority and practiced enough. Milne’s continual reminder of the importance of this skill allows us, even if subconsciously for some, to pay more attention to his words and the story.

He’s positive

Pooh always has a positive outlook to any situation. He faces his fears and goes out of his comfort zone on a regular basis, and whilst he’s not always the most enthusiastic, he does always think positively about any challenge he faces – he accepts the reality and doesn’t worry about the outcomes. These positive messages are uplifting and inspirational, which makes these stories so enjoyable.

These six elements, combined with the consistent themes that Milne runs through all of his stories – the importance of gratitude, kindness, acceptance and friendship – ensure that the writing is easy to read and understand, it also builds a strong emotional connection with the reader (whether adult or child) and an empathy and fondness for those characters who most resonate with us as individuals. These elements can – and should – be applied to any piece of writing that looks to engage its readers and deliver an effective message. If you would like to hear more tips for effective writing – or even just to share your favourite Winnie The Pooh quote – then please do email me sam@footstepcommunications.com

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