How I Got Much Better at Communication

Donald Miller

I really like writing and speaking, but I’ve not always been good at it. I was told early on I was funny but I’ve worked for the past fifteen years or so at becoming a better communicator. I could share with you a list of things I’ve learned, but honestly, that list wouldn’t do you much good. Every speaker and writer is different.

So, instead, I’ll share with you one simple secret:
Every time I do a Storyline Conference, I pay people to give me criticism.

I really mean it. I fly them in, I pay them a small fee, and I get together with them at a later date to hear, from their perspective, how I can do better.

Some of these are experts on comedy, some on psychology, some on theology, and even an expert on creating great keynote slides.

And I take their opinions seriously. They take notes and we go through their notes detail by detail. I don’t make every change they recommend, but I make most of them.

The number one comment we get from former Storyline attendees is that it gets better and better each time. Our communication is more clear, our process is easy to understand and truly life changing, and people are more easily connecting with me while I’m presenting.

We will never be a polished conference. That’s not who we are. We are authentic and we take huge risks letting our guests be themselves. But in whatever we do, we want to make sure we are never wasting anybody’s time.

So, here’s what this has to do with you.

What line of work are you in? And are you accepting criticism? Are you learning from it and getting better?

This is a concept we must be careful with because not all criticism is helpful.

Here are my keys to whom I take criticism from:

    1. I invite experts to criticize me. I give them specific parameters (though I’m open to anything) and ask them to help me understand what’s working and not working. These are people who are learned in their fields, experienced and have a track record of success. I value their perspective.

    2. I choose people who are for me and for Storyline. They need to love our mission and our audience. This helps me receive even their harshest criticisms.

    3. I make myself love the mission more than my own identity. This is, of course, the key to any great leader. Do they love the mission more than themselves? If I sit with a critic and take things personally, I’ll cry myself to sleep. I get plenty of affirmation, but when I sit down with a critic, that’s not the point. The point is, how can we love the Storyline community even more?

Are there people in your life you can accept criticism from? And not just in your work, what about your marriage and your family? Do you teach Sunday School? Is there somebody you trust to get together with to critique your teaching?

If you want to rise to the top, accept some pruning now and then. Allow some people to tell you where you need to trim your limbs so you can produce more fruit in the future.

The people listening to you are worth it.

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller is all about story. He helps people live a better story at and grow their business at Follow Don on Twitter (@donaldmiller). To read more of his posts on the Storyline Blog, click here.