Comm Lessons from 5-Yr Olds


“Ay dayta dyay ag-mag-magnet?” I did not answer immediately so he asked again, “Ay dayta dyay ag-mag-magnet?”

I just took a break from my MBA schooling after our final exams last week for the transition term. I had good professors but nothing compares to my professors CJ and John. I met them last Sunday after a trek on a hilltop in Tawang, La Trinidad.

Have you ever had that encounter with someone you are just meeting for the first time and you knew that something special is going on?

I’m not talking about “love at first sight” though. That would be for another article.

I was walking down the road while swinging my monopod. At one spot, there were two boys playing and laughing. As I got closer to their house by the roadside, the small boy looked at me, smiled, and asked in Ilokano, “Ay dayta jay ag-mag-magnet?” (Is that the thing that magnets?)

The “anti-social” in me just kept silent but I gave the little boy a smile. He smiled back and asked again while giggling, “Ay dayta jay ag-mag-magnet?” (Is that the thing that magnets?)

I was amazed by his insistence. There and then, my social side kicked in and woke me up. Sensing the playfulness of the boys, I thought of playing along.

I responded, “Wen ya, ag-mag-magnet daytoy!” (Oh yes, this is the thing that magnets!) while teasingly pointing the monopod (the “magnet gadget”) to the smaller boy as if attempting to magnet his hand. “Yay!” he shouts while he runs away from the “magnet gadget”. The other boy played along and we laughed together.

Then I pulled the monopod, stopped and asked the smaller boy, “What’s your name?” Without any hesitation, he answered, “I’m CJ.” “Hi, CJ!” I responded then turned to the other boy. “How about you?”

“I’m Justin!” remarked the bigger boy. “So you’re CJ and you’re Justin. Cool!”

“How about you?” CJ asked me. Wow! This kid knows how to engage in a conversation. I told myself.

“I’m Chris.” I asked him back, “How old are you, CJ?” “One!” he playfully answered. “No, you’re five.” Justin interrupted.

“Oh, you’re five years old. Good boy!” I looked at Justin, “How about you?” “I’m six,” he said.

“Awesome! You two are good boys! Enjoy playing.” I said while I waved my hand to say goodbye.

But CJ queried, “And how about you? How old are you?” “Wow! This kid really knows how to ask questions,” I whispered.

Then I playfully answered, “I’m one year old!” “Weh!” CJ remarked. I waved goodbye and continued walking home. CJ and Justin waved back but CJ still shouted his question with glee, “How old are you?”

I was smiling while I was walking down. Then after a while, I realized I just relearned three powerful tenets in interpersonal communication. Here they are:

First, be interested in people. Ask questions!

Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, schooled generations to be genuinely interested in people. That’s how you win friends and influence people. And this is one way of being an effective communicator.

The 5-year old CJ demonstrated this very well by asking me questions. First, about the monopod. Second, about my name. Third, about my age.

I was there walking and the interested CJ simply asked me a safe and general question. Not too personal, not something sensitive, but something that I could respond to casually and that sparked a conversation that could lead into getting to know the person and maybe gain a friend, an associate, or a mentor.

Second, have fun. Laugh a lot.

Be serious about having fun! How’s that? Play around. Laugh along. Have fun. Insert jokes when you can. Laugh with people (not at people).

There goes the five-year old CJ and six-year old Justin playing around. They knew how to smile, joke around, and laugh along.

Third, be genuine (while having fun).

Somehow, this is what I missed in our conversation. I wasn’t able to be genuine (at a certain level).

Here’s why: While CJ was joking around that his age is just one, Justin corrected and said, “CJ is five.” As for me, I was also having fun and kidding around that I am one year old but I did not correct and told them my correct age (at the end).

To CJ, I missed to be genuine. But Professors CJ and Justin didn’t fail in teaching me, reminding me to be genuine.

That afternoon, I relearned the three fundamentals of communication. First, be interested in people. Second, have fun. Third, be genuine. These are essential tenets in interpersonal communication.

That afternoon, CJ and Justin were my communication professors. Professors CJ and Justin surely were effective in teaching me. In sharing this story, I hope you relearned the three tenets of interpersonal communication, too.

How about this: Now that I passed on the lesson from Professors CJ and Justin, could you be Professors CJ and Justin to someone else, too?

(Chris Dao-anis is an author and speaker. His first book ‘The Gift of the Ordinary’ is available at Mt. Cloud Bookshop, Casa Vallejo, BC. Email him at Visit