We live in a society where perception is reality and an opinion is formed in three seconds. We never get a second chance to make a first impression. The most effective way we have to control how we are known by others is through how we communicate.
Practice the following tips to be more deliberate and intentional in your communication with others:
1. Craft your persona statement. We have a choice in how we want to be known. Identify and write down strategic elements that reflect your positive character traits and best attributes. Begin by completing the following sentence: I want to be known as …
2. Every public encounter is a performance, not a presentation. It is a performance because someone is watching -- not because it is false. The root of the word presentation means to introduce formally -- to bring before the public. Performance means to begin and carry through to completion -- to carry out, fulfill. In other words, performing is an opportunity to embody who we are, not merely superficially, or formally presenting who we are.
Practice 15 seconds of an opening statement, a PowerPoint presentation or a conference call. Do this in front of a mirror and observe yourself or record it on a video camera, audio recorder or smart phone and play it back. The goal is to begin to recognize what others might hear or see. You may notice that your pitch is higher than you thought it was or that you speak too quickly or look tense.
3. Breathe. Breath is fuel. If we don’t put gas in the tank of our car, we do not get to our destination. If it is important enough to say, breathe before you say it. Practice slowly inhaling to a count of five and say the following sentence at the apex of your inhalation, “I am an extraordinary person, and I do extraordinary things.” As you practice this phrase with this breathing technique, you are not only embedding a new communication tool, you are also learning to claim who you are -- without flinching. Practice this daily until you not only believe it but you become it.
4. Speed is only speed. Communication mastery is not about being fast, it is about being effective. Nothing is gained by going too fast, but potentially, everything could be lost. The best way to slow down is to integrate this tip with the previous one. The single most important way to control the flow of information is to control the flow of breath. Breathing more slowly and deeply will slow down your communication and also create more time to think, thus more communication control.
5. No white noise. Eradicate “um,” “uh,” “like” and “you know” from your vocabulary. In place of these fillers, deliberately take your time and breathe. Space has value. Embrace it.
Many years ago, my former student Tony Robbins referred to my techniques as “pattern interrupts.” Vocal Awareness shifts our communication behavior and by extension, how we are perceived, from unconscious behaviors to strategic actions. These pattern interrupts help us discard negative or less effective habits and create more positive empowering habits. This will enhance not only your professional relationships but your personal ones as well. The goal is that the same person show up everywhere.
Communication mastery is not about making us into someone we are not, but rather helping us discover who we truly are and embody what is possible. As you develop these new techniques, you may initially feel awkward or unnatural, but that is the nature of learning. In time, these skills will enable you to reflect authenticity, strength, warmth and compassion -- not just in what you do but through who you are. The goal is for the same person to show up everywhere.
It is never just the message, but the messenger that matters.