We all know how important the non-verbal cues are to effective communication, relationship development, and networking. Our body language, inflection of our voice, our eye contact, facial expressions dominate the words we say. Those that study this stuff have said that words are only about 7-30% of the communication we intend. As I said, we know this in our heads, but we are not conscious of it.
Tell your face—You see this one everyday, if you are paying attention. We have these robotic exchanges that have become meaningless transactions. You enter the elevator, or the office in the morning and you say something to greet anyone and everyone. It is neither sincere or intentional. We say things like "Good Morning", or "How are you?"–even if the morning sucks and you are not interested in or care about anyone's well-being. In fact, if the target of our pre-recorded pablum speaks, we are awakened from our slumber and struggle to respond. My assistant for years, Patsy, would greet me every morning with a confusing happy voice and an enthusiastic Good morning! and a severe frown. At first I thought she had been part of a botox experiment gone awry. :( The first time she did this, I said, "if it is a good morning, tell your face!"
Do you remember the Michael Dukakis passionless response to the question about whether the death penalty should be applied to the murderer and rapist of his wife Kitty?
Without putting energy into your daily deliveries of words and messages, you will communicate poorly. Your posture, handshake, intonation, and your facial attention can undermine your persuasiveness.
A few basic tips to remember to keep focused:
- Engage the other person by looking into their eyes, listen and observe their body language.
- Keep your hands in front of you, instead of folding them, on your hips or in the "fig leaf" position.
- Smile. It will always brings energy into your voice and your eyes.
Lead with your passions–When people talk about what they care about, they stand up straighter, their eyes light up, and their voice is overflowing with expression. So funny, because many people have asked me if I have ESP. I listen to and watch people, and when they really smile and start becoming more animated, I tell them how obvious that this is an important subject to them. "How could you tell?", they query. Find out what others are passionate about, then your encounters and conversations will feed off one another.
How can you understand, see and hear any incongruences or distracting body language you create?
You practice in front of a mirror. You videotape your presentation skills. You get candid feedback from colleagues and confidantes. When I started the process to refine my speaking and presentations, I immediately improved. Seeing and hearing is believing. You become a student of yourself. How do others see you? How big is the gap between what you think you are doing and what others see? This is a critical skill, your accurate awareness of you. I became painfully aware of my strange an previously unknown habits and body language expressions through a thorough and relentless examination of my schtick. Still working on it and never again took it for granted.
Always suprised how under prepared people are for making impressions. They wing it. They hope that the right words and body language magiacally appear when called upon. Some people think they are Robin Williams! Most of us know that Robin doesn't ad lib, but draws on a library of practiced and rehearsed routines. I am not saying that you need to script yourself, but preparation with a keen eye on what it really looks and sounds like is essential.
As Allen Iverson said, "Are we talking about practice?" Yes we are!
Connect your mind to your body through your conciousness. Don't let your folded arms, furrowed brow, repeated "ums", shifty eyes, or inaudible voice, steal your opportunities and your compelling ideas.
Carry yourself, express yourself, with the spirit and energy that it matters–because it does.
Your ability to network is directly tied to your trustworthiness, believability, and likability. How you present yourself deserves at least as much prep and attention as your clever words and phrases.
I dedicate this post to my brother in-law Andrew Kim Weaver, who was tragically taken from us this week. Andrew was fiercely candid and famous for his non-verbal communication.
Thanks for reading. John