In the business world, you don't often go it alone, cranking out products, services or what-have-you from a tower of isolation. Chances are you're going to have to interact with a human or two on your way to great success. Here, three subtle ways to make your communication style as effective as possible -- for business and life.
1. Manage your tempo
If you speak too fast, remember that fast talkers usually come off as insincere or strictly self-interested (think late-night infomercials). But slow talkers can sometimes come off as slow-witted or lacking in energy.
So obviously, there’s a sweet spot: Slow enough to show that you're being thoughtful, but fast enough to show that you're bright and energetic.
The “right” tempo depends on the situation and to some degree on your personality -- and on what’s being said. You might speak swiftly when giving your credentials, but slow down when describing your product’s benefits.
Don’t forget that we all tend to be most comfortable with our own chosen tempo. If you’re trying to be persuasive with someone, match your tempo to his or hers.
2. Use good manners
Good manners are a code of behavior based on respect and graciousness. They're a consistent demonstration of respect and concern through words and actions -- and even silences and inactions.
Sometimes, when it comes to going out of their way to be polite, people think, “That’s not me -- that’s not ‘real.’” If being "real" means cutting corners, speaking tersely and omitting niceties, that’s fine with family and friends -- if they tolerate you -- but not with customers and colleagues. Polite behaviors lead to more politeness from others. The opposite can be true too.
These key phrases belong in your regular interactions: May I ask? Thank you. That’s interesting. I hope that was helpful. May I repeat that to make sure I’m clear?
3. Mind your body language
Your body “speaks,” and its words are your physical posture, deportment and gestures. They tell others whether you're detached, fascinated, listening, bored. When your body language belies your words, body language wins.
One of the most important physical gestures you can make toward another to demonstrate interest is eye contact. It's how you generously convey your attention to them. Lack of eye contact is disconcerting and ultimately shuts down the other person.
Arms aren’t neutral or silent. Arms folded across your chest conveys some version of, “I don’t believe you," "I don’t like you" or "I don’t want to be here.”
Conversely, arms open, down and/or to your side, means, “I’m listening, I’m open, I like you, I trust you.” Everybody knows that foot-tapping signals impatience and yawning conveys boredom -- yet it’s amazing how often one does it, thinking it will pass unnoticed.