By Chris Simmons
Be more successful in getting everything you want by remembering that all communication is theater and every personal interaction a distinct performance. While this may sound like an overstatement, step back and think about it for a second. In one manner or another, all encounters have a set, costumes, sound effects, lighting, acting, and dialogue. While some performances may be more “bare bones” than others, increased audience engagement and recall occurs by integrating as many senses as possible into a performance (i.e., sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell).
Understand The Redundancies in Spoken Communication
While it may seem counterintuitive, the pathway to influence comes not from speaking, but from listening and observing. To paraphrase Mark Twain, “No one ever learned a damn thing while they were running their mouth.” Or more to the point, as Steven Covey so famously said “”First seek to understand, then be understood.”
As humans, we are born to over-communicate. In fact, every time we speak, we broadcast our message in three distinct manners. Our words provide the verbal content, while non-verbal communication provides both auditory and visual cues. More importantly, non-verbals generally convey 60-93% of the intent and meaning of a spoken message. Non-verbals consist of utterances and body language. Utterances are the speed, pitch, tone, and volume of what is said, as well as any non-words that may be included (a sigh of exasperation, for example). Body language consists of both intentional and involuntary gestures and physical responses.
Take These Three Steps to Increased Influence
- Listen to the words. Understand that every word has meaning, as does its placement within a sentence or paragraph. Generally, the initial word(s) in a sentence convey the bulk of the message. For example, to say “Tomorrow, I need to head back to school,” emphasizes the timing of the event. In contrast, “I need to head back to school tomorrow,” emphasizes the focus on the speaker.
- Watch the body language. Do not assume that all gestures mean the same thing. Observe others long enough to create a “baseline” of their normal mannerisms. Any subsequent anomaly displayed by their body warrants attention. For example, imagine a meeting during which a colleague offers to partner with you on a project. Then, after making the offer, he/she proceeds to lean back and interlace their fingers behind their head. This would generally be an anomaly due to the disconnect between a seemingly genuine offer and a gesture that is a classic sign of perceived superiority.
- Take note of the utterances. The manner of delivery is everything. The words “I love you” can be said in every fashion from soft and romantic to mockingly and dishonest.
Ideally, the three communicative streams compliment and reinforce one another. Their purpose is to ensure a message is clearly received and understood. In doing so, they provide a behavioral “cluster” which paints a much more precise image of the speaker’s intent, areas of interest, and sincerity. Conversely, when the verbal and non-verbal worlds collide, always trust the latter. The body hates deception and will always provide a physical response to reveal the truth.