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How the 70/20/10 Rule Changed My Life

I was devastated when my parents divorced when I was only 8 years old and broke up our family. From that point on, my communication was angry and selfish.  Not a good combination for someone who was already very outspoken and fearless. I had no problem saying what was on my mind, no matter the situation, no matter how it came out, no matter how it left the other person feeling. According to my mother, I left people in tears many times.  I would walk into a room, walk up to the person with no regard as to what they were doing, who else was in the room, etc., just say what I wanted or needed to say, then turn around and walk away without giving them a chance to respond. “We never knew what was going to come out of Wendy’s mouth.”, says both of my parents.

My mom remarried when I was 10 and my dad remarried when I was 16. Both were terrible, toxic families that tried to tear my parents away from their kids. Bouncing between two homes & toxic step families only added to my communication woes. I ended up with two divorces of my own. My first I found being disloyal after just 6 months of being married. The second allowed his addictions to get the best of him.

After 2 divorces, bankruptcy, and loss of a child, I looked around at what kind of people I had been collecting in my life and asking myself What was I doing? Why was I collecting these types of people? Why can’t I have any successful relationships? I struggled maintaining friendships, building relationships at work, and now all this.  Things have to change!  I have to change!

In 2009, I was working for corporate America in Accounts Payable.  While I was great at my job, people didn’t enjoy working with me. Being raised by two entrepreneurs, I was very much a perfectionist.  Why wouldn’t anyone enjoy working with a perfectionist with communication issues? Apparently, they were getting enough complaints that my Audit Manager came to me one day trying to help and gave me the 70/20/10 Rule that would change my life.  He said their goal is to have 70% of the invoices go through without incident, 20% needs to be escalated to management, and 10% can be written off.

“You’re willing to write stuff off???”, I responded surprisingly.  “Yep.”, he says. “Um, ok.” I finalized. Then I started internalizing: Whoa! What the heck! I need a minute to process this. Wait, that means I don’t have to be perfect. Wait! I don’t have to be perfect! Whoa. As I got comfortable using this rule in my work, I started looking at it through the lens of communication. I really started paying attention and listening to the people around me; at work, in life, my family.  I noticed that 70% of what people were saying was their own stuff. Their own emotions, beliefs, fears, baggage, etc. 20% was a combination of their stuff and being personal to me. Only 10% was directly personal to me. I thought If only 10-30% of what people are saying to me is directly personal to me, why am I taking anything personally? Why am I taking offense to anything that’s not meant to be offensive? This process helped me discern how much of others’ communication was actually useful to me. The rest I let go of.

Then I turned it around on myself and found that I did the same thing. 70% of my communication was my own stuff, 20% a combination, and only 10% was directly personal to the person I was speaking to. I thought "What was I projecting at people?" "Was anything I was saying pertinent to the topic at hand?" Which also led to my actively listening to what I said to myself … and I did not like what I was saying to myself.  When I realized how I treated myself, it’s no wonder that’s how I treated others.

How we feel on the inside is what gets projected outwards.

Over the next few years, I was able to turn my communication around. Now 70% of my communication is intentional to the topic and person at hand, 20% is a combination of my stuff and being personal to them, and 10% is directly personal to me. I think it’s important to still have the 10% that is still personal to me as it allows me to share relational information & stories to tie the rest of the conversation together.

I invite you to actively listen to your communication and communication you’re receiving from others and discern what’s being communicated. How much of their communication is useful to you and pertinent to the topic at hand? Are you taking in their baggage, beliefs, fears, and emotions? What are you projecting at people? Are you being intentional with your communication?

This made such a huge impact on my life that I couldn’t resist writing a book on it: Verbal Turbulence: The 70/20/10 Rule. Providing my readers tips on how to transform their communication, how to use the 70/20/10 Rule in 16 different ways, and how to build effective communication. Not only do I demonstrate this in communication, I also use it in business metrics such as employee and client retention, prioritization and strategy planning, and more.

I strongly believe you can not build trust and loyalty without effective communication and the most important relationship is that with yourself. How can you build trust and loyalty with yourself if you’re not communicating effectively with yourself? How can you build trust and loyalty with others if you can’t even build trust and loyalty with yourself?


Wendy Watson

Spiritual Therapist

TBR Spiritual Health

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