“Stories affirm who we are. We all want affirmations that our lives have meaning. And nothing does a greater affirmation than when we connect through stories.” – Andrew Stanton.
Below I would like to explore the 10 revelations I’ve experienced from the stories of 10 animated movies that inspired, provoked and touched me.
1. Arthur Christmas
Takeaway: You will get what you work for, not what you wish for.
In “Arthur Christmas,” unlike his brother, Steve, Arthur never aspires to be a Santa but is compassionately concerned with delivering a missing gift to little Gwen Hines, which is the core requisite to be a Santa. At the end of the film he becomes Santa. So the film’s affirmation is to work for what you believe in not just wish for it. Success will arrive when you are the least concerned about it — because you might have deserved it by then.
When Gwen Hines eagerly gets down to grab the gift under the Christmas tree from Santa.
After a quarrel amongst the Clauses as to who is going to give Gwen her gift, the family realize that Arthur is the only one who truly cares about Gwen’s feelings and he is allowed to deliver the gift.
Gwen Hines: Santa brought me the bike I wanted!
[Then as Arthur is watching little Gwen unwrapping the present in awe …]
Grand Santa: Steve, you deserve to be Santa, but Steve, I wonder if Gwen is right.
[Then Steve accepts his brother as the new Santa.]
Takeaway: Someone special will always make you special.
Many of us worry about choosing our partner, but make sure you opt for someone who inspires you, supports you and makes you feel special, not someone who drains energy out of you. Someone special will always make you special. In “Rio,” Blu is a pet and can’t fly initially, but having met Jewel he does things he couldn’t do earlier. Jewel literally transforms Blu in all ways and makes him special.
When Jewel falls out of a plane and can’t fly due to injury, Blu literally jumps out to protect her, being aware of the fact that he can’t fly.
Jewel: Blu, you are crazy. What are you doing?
Blu: I’m not gonna let you go. We are chained-to-each-other birds, remember?Advertising
[Then magic happens, Blu starts flying…]
Jewel: Blu, you are flying … you are flying!
Blu: Yeah, I’m flying, ohoooooo … I’m really flying! You are right: I’m not an ostrich, I’m not an ostrich!
3. Finding Nemo
Takeaway: Go on a quest by faith, not by sight. You will be rewarded nevertheless.
Marianne Williamson famously said, “As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others.” So if you believe in something, sometimes you have to just go by faith, not by sight. Had Marlin never gone on his quest, he wouldn’t have found Nemo. Had Nemo not tried to escape from the aquarium, he wouldn’t have reached his father. Both trusted their gut instincts and defied the odds to come through, finally reaping love.
After rescuing the fish from a trap, Nemo lies still on the ocean bed while his dad, Marlin, rushes eagerly to his little son.
Somehow this subtext moment brings me tears, particularly the mere mention of Sandy Plankton. It’s not actually about Sandy Plankton, it’s all about the daring quest of Marlin against the vast and deep ocean.
Nemo: Daddy, I won’t hate you anymore.
Marlin: Oh, no, no, no. I’m so sorry, Nemo.
Marlin: Hey. Guess what?
Marlin: Sea turtles? I met one, and he was a hundred and fifty years old.
Nemo: Hundred and fifty?
Nemo: Oh. ‘Cause Sandy Plankton said that they only live to be a hundred.
Marlin: Sandy Plankton? You think I would travel the whole ocean and not know as much as Sandy Plankton? He was a hundred and fifty, not a hundred.
4. Kung Fu Panda
Takeaway: To be someone special, you just have to believe that you are special.Advertising
There is no secret to anything, it just takes belief. Once you believe that, you can make anything happen. This is how Po realizes the true meaning of his own reflection in the Dragon Scroll in “Kung Fu Panda.” Belief is everything. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen at your will and nothing can stop you.
Having lost hope from an empty Dragon Scroll, Po tries to vacate the village along with his father, Mr. Ping, while he reveals the secret ingredient of the secret soup.
Mr. Ping: The secret ingredient is … nothing!
Mr. Ping: You heard me. Nothing! There is no secret ingredient.
Po: Wait; wait … it’s just plain old noodle soup? You don’t add some kind of special sauce or something?
Mr. Ping: Don’t have to. To make something special you just have to believe it’s special.
[Po looks at the scroll again, and sees his reflection in it.]
Po: There is no secret ingredient! [Goes to fight with Tylon.]
Takeaway: Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.
There is an artist in everyone but many of us are afraid to take the leap, doubting our abilities. Nobody is entitled to become a great artist based on personal advantages and vested interests, but everyone can become an artist provided they are decisive and passionate about it. It’s all about choice, not about opportunities. If a rat could become a fine chef in “Ratatouille,” why can’t we become anything we aspire to be? You may argue that it’s just a fiction, but every fiction is a figment of someone’s imagination, inspired by truth.
When Anton Ego writes a critique about the new Chef Ratatouille defying his own conventions.
Anton Ego: The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new: an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto, “Anyone can cook.” But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist; but a great artist can come from anywhere.
Takeaway: The worst part in your life could turn out to be the best part later.
Lightning McQueen, the super race car in the film, accidentally ends up in a small town called Radiator Springs. He is desperate to win the Piston Cup Race, which is going to be held in Los Angeles in a week, but he is forced to stay in the small town until he mends the road he destroyed. However, after initial hesitation, he begins to develop a beautiful bonding with the people there and he finds something beyond Piston Cup: love and family. “Cars” had a very simple lesson to tell: sometimes the worst possible things that happen in your life could turn out to be the best ones later. You may not understand why initially, but later you realize those moments actually define you.
Mater: I knew it! I knew I made a good choice!
Lightning McQueen: In what?
Mater: My best friend. [Referring to Lightning McQueen.]
7. Despicable me
Takeaway: It’s all about family.
Family is not an important thing: it’s everything. Life is all about human bonding. Stop searching fanatically for other possessions and just find your “family.” In “Despicable Me,” Gru desperately wants to steal the moon, but in due course, after adopting three little kids for selfish gains, he paradoxically finds a love that changes his perceptions forever. He is not the same person anymore.
When Gru reads a made up story of his own to the three little kids in in a moment of retrospection.
Gru: [reading the book he wrote] One big unicorn, strong and free, thought he was happy as he could be. Then three little kittens came around and turned his whole life upside down. They made him laugh, they made him cry. He never should have said goodbye. And now he knows he can never part from those three little kittens that changed his heart.
Takeaway: We are many leaves from one tree, nobody is alone.
A lot of us worry about circumstances that demand our resilience, and we feel self-pity, telling ourselves, “I’m alone.” But for your kind information, you’re not alone. And the world out there is not as bad as you think. Whenever you are feeling alone, depressed and hopeless, don’t worry. Keep on trying and seek help from people in all the ways you can. You’ll be never left alone; actually, we all are connected.
When Nod comes to rescue Ronin while he is trying to protect the pod from dying.
Mandrake: What’s that little saying you people have? “Lots of leaves, something, something …” Very inspiring. But in the end, every leaf falls and dies alone.
[Lifts his sword to kill Ronin, but right before it hits, a leaf man sword blocks its way in the nick of time. It proves to be Nod.]
Nod: No one is alone. Not even him.Advertising
9. How to Train Your Dragon
Takeaway: Never judge others cynically.
Judging is easy but understanding is difficult, that is the reason most of us are quick to judge. Before leaping to judgment, try to understand others’ perspective. You never know what they might have been going through. In “How to Train Your Dragon,” Stoick has fixed notions based on his prejudices, but Hiccup tries to understand dragons from their perspective. Once he does that, the whole island is saved and dragons become residents. A considered understanding without judging is all we need for the betterment of our lives.
When Stoick finds out that Hiccup is actually trying to defend Toothless, his dragon.
Hiccup: I screwed up. I should have told you before now; just … take this out on me, be mad at me, but please, just don’t hurt Toothless!
Stoick: [shocked] The dragon? That’s what you’re worried about? Not the people you almost killed?
Hiccup: H-he was just protecting me! He’s not dangerous!
Stoick: They’ve killed hundreds of us!
Hiccup: And we’ve killed thousands of them! They defend themselves, that’s all! They raid us because they have to! If they don’t bring enough food back, they’ll be eaten themselves! There’s, something else on their island, Dad, it … It’s a dragon like …
10. Kung Fu Panda 2
Takeaway: Know yourself first.
It’s all about you. Carl Jung famously said, “Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.” Once you discover yourself, nothing seems to bother you, like Po in “Kung Fu Panda 2.” From the beginning of the film, Po is always searching for inner peace. Once he finds it, he can face anything in the world, even the deadly weapon he couldn’t face before. It’s a beautiful metaphor to explain that one has to fight with one’s inner demons first. Once you do that, demons from outside don’t actually matter.
The final confrontation when Po ruins everything that Shen dreamed of.
Shen: How did you find peace? I took away your parents, everything. I scarred you for life.
Po: See that’s the thing, Shen, scars heal.
Shen: No, they don’t. Wounds heal.
Po: Oh, yeah? What do scars do? They fade, I guess …
Shen: I don’t care what scars do!
Po: You should, Shen. You got to let go of the stuff from the past because it just doesn’t matter! The only thing that matters is what you choose to be now.
Last Updated on May 21, 2019
How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship
For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.
If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:
You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.
You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.
In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.
You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.
People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.
You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.
You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.
The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.
You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.
Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.
If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.
Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:
- Understand your own communication style
- Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
- Communicate with precision and care
- Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger
1. Understand Your Communication Style
To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.
In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.
Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.
2. Learn Others Communication Styles
Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.
If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:
“How do you prefer to receive information?”
This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.
To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.
3. Exercise Precision and Care
A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.
On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.
Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.
I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.
I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.
In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.
The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.
Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.
4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger
Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.
In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,
“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”
Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.
Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.
It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.
It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.
It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.
Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.
Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.
The Bottom Line
When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.
I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.
More Articles About Effective Communication
- Conflict Management Styles for Effective Communication at Work
- 13 Best Communication Books for Stronger Social Skills & Relationships
- How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home
- 7 Most Important Communication Techniques to Master in the Workplace
Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com
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