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Maya Angelou's Powerful Communication Secret

communication leadership
A photo of Maya Angelou with a quote from her that concludes people will never forget how you made them feel.


By John Millen

As a writer and teacher of leadership communication, I use a lot of quotes, stories and metaphors to influence positive outcomes in people.

My favorite of all quotes, the one I use nearly every keynote or coaching session, is from the poet and writer Dr. Maya Angelou:

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

You need only think about a hurtful comment in your past to understand the truth of this quote. Or you might recall a low moment in your life when someone changed everything with a few words of encouragement.

In fact, I tell leaders that if they get nothing else from our work together, they should take Angelou’s statement to heart and use it in their communication every day.

It's Angelou's powerful secret to effective communication.

And, in the face of our fragmented workplace relationships, the power of Angelou’s sentiment has never been stronger.

If you’re not familiar with Angelou, who passed away in 2014 at age 86, she was a poet laureate, college professor, Broadway actress and dancer, among many other vocations. 

She was a prolific author of essays, poetry and seven autobiographies, including the powerful I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She is also featured on the American quarter dollar. 

Here are other Maya Angelou insightful quotes that inspire me, so I share them with my listeners:

  • When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.
  • A leader sees greatness in other people. He nor she can be much of a leader if all she sees is herself.
  • I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.
  • I am convinced that courage is the most important of all virtues. Because without courage, you cannot practice any other virtue consistently….it is only with courage that you can be persistently and insistently kind and generous and fair.

In our business and personal lives, there are so many demands for our attention that it's easy to be dismissive, often unintentionally, of important people in our lives. That's why this one quote is so powerful for you to remember every time you communicate because:

....people will never forget how you made them feel.

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John Millen

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