I was listening to a speaker at a blogger event I was doing at the Utah Food Bank tonight and he said something that reasonated with me. He said "Everything Communicates" and then he went on to explain exactly what that meant. His name is Spencer Taggart and he is a social media professor at LDS Business College. You can find him on Twitter at @SpencerTaggart.
What Spencer meant by "Everything Communicates" is that while we spend so much time thinking about our words and the way we think we are presenting ourselves to people, there are dozens of other things about you that are either confirming that impression or denying it.
Everything from the kind of car you drive, the way you are dressed, your energy level, your body language, the people you choose to surround yourself, just EVERYTHING speaks to what kind of person you are, what your values are, and what your deepest self is all about, regardless of what message you think you are trying to put across.
So, does that mean you go out and buy a Rolex and a Cadillac, and a diamond pinkie ring so people will like you? Absolutely not. We are talking about authentic communication here and people are incredibly adept at spotting a phony.
But if you want to be seen as a professional person, dress like a professional and speak like a professional. Surround yourself with like-minded friends and advisors. Show good customer service to your clients. If you want your family to show respect and listen to you, you have to lay a little groundwork by showing them respect and listening to them as well. Otherwise you lose your credibility and they aren't likely to pay attention to you.
He gave an example of a business man who decided to entertain a potential client at a restaurant he worked with. They visited and the restaurant was dirty and disorganized. The client's enthusiasm started to fade as he looked around the messy restaurant and he started to wonder what kind of a business man he was dealing with that would bring him to this place. At that point, the man could have made the best presentation on earth, but the surroundings would have drowned out his message.
This is kind of a good news/bad news message. The bad news is that factors you may not be aware of might be sabotaging the good impression you are trying to make. The good news is that a few simple changes might boost a so-so impression into a great one.
For instance, look at the front steps of your house. What does it say about your family? Are there weeds? Toys strewn all over? Hose not rolled up or porch not swept in weeks? In 5 seconds, that tells a visitor a lot about what they are going to find on the inside of the house and it is probably 100% accurate.
At this point, I would post a photo of my front porch, but it's too depressing. Weeds - check, hose - check, welcome mat all crooked, dead plant sitting in a pot right in front of the door. These items are communicating the world that here is a busy family who doesn't take the time to take good care of their house, which to be honest, is right on the money. But now that I'm aware of that, I can turn that impression right around by taking 15 or 20 minutes tomorrow night and doing a quick tidy up. Straighten the doormat, pull a few weeds, sweep off the porch, and dump out the dead plant. Now when I welcome a guest into my home, they won't be expecting to see something out of the Munsters!
So, how do you create authentic communication in your life? I think it's not that hard. It's mostly a matter of awareness.
Step 1: Put some thought into it. Whether you are having a conversation with someone, completing a project for work, or putting something out on Facebook, just take a second and think about the impression you want to create. I call this setting your intention. What is your goal in this interaction? Maybe it's just to entertain, or show someone you care about them. That's fine - you are just taking a quick moment to clarify your thought rather than just throwing any old thing out there.
Step 2: Now that you've set your intention - get your ducks in a row. Take a second to proofread the project and make sure your numbers all add up. Brainstorm any questions the boss might ask about the project and be sure you have answers. Think about the Facebook post - is it really funny or might it injure or offend someone? Today one of my friends posted a Halloween costume that showed a headless horseman. Typical Halloween fare, but with all the terrorism activities going on right now, some people took it the wrong way and she received a negative backlash for something she had not given a second thought over. She handled the situation extremely well and created a positive impression out of a negative one, but I'm sure it caused a lot of unnecessary distress for her because she didn't think through this step.
Step 3: Can you take it to the next level? In other words, is there anything additional you can do to help enhance your effort? If your conversation with your friend is meant to show them you care about them during a rough time - ask if you can follow-up with them in a week to make sure they are OK. Give them a hug or offer to do something thoughtful for them. Can you add a chart to your presentation to clarify your point? Think about what the A+ student does rather than the B- student - they go the extra mile.
I was lucky this week. I had a couple of conversations that I felt were really authentic. It was one of those rare moments where I was able to express my feelings in exactly the manner I wanted to and where I felt the other person understood exactly what I wanted to convey to them.
Does that mean blue skies and everything is hunky dory? Not necessarily, but it means I was HEARD and I let people really know my heart. That is definitely a great first step. Having those authentic conversations gave me a terrific feeling and it just doesn't happen often enough. I'm going to work harder at speaking more from the heart and less from my head and see if I can continue making these types of conversations an on-going trend.
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