Monday, February 6, 2017

But That's Not What I Meant!

How often have you caught yourself protesting...  'That's not what I meant'?
How often have you found others misunderstanding, misinterpreting or simply missing your messages? Unfortunately for most of us, a misunderstanding on the part of the audience is most often due to poor communication on the part of the speaker.  Us.

The fault rests on the focus of speakers on the development and delivery of their message, rather than on its receipt.  Most speakers are very content focused, wanting to ensure that the content of the messages they share is accurate and direct. However, they typically fall short on working to ensure that their message delivery systems are aligned with their content. In short, they focus solely on the messages they are delivering with their words and do not take into account the messages being simultaneously delivered through their voice or body.
"More miscommunication and misunderstandings arise simply through a misalignment of messages between 'what' you say and 'how' you say it than any other communication error"
When someone misinterprets your desired message it will most likely be due to a failure on your part to align your spoken words with your non-verbal messages than it will be due to your audience's failure to listen appropriately. Our expectation that others will listen to our words, without our message being influenced by any sub textual messages we are sending, is unrealistic at best and destined for misunderstanding and misinterpretation at worst.

We know that the messages that others receive from us are based 50-95% on our non-verbal messaging, not upon the words we choose to share with them.  At a minimum then half of the messages we deliver to others, in any given situation, are driven by our non-verbal messages. Half.

Now consider how much time you have invested in understanding those messages, in studying what your voice and behaviours are telling people about you, about your content. What are your non-verbal messages doing to heighten your credibility? What are your non-verbals doing to diminish it?

It is not enough for us to 'know' what we are talking about if we cannot get others to understand it, accept it, believe in it or... believe in us. Powerful and successful communicators understand this. Top influencers study this. Those of us that want our messages to be heard and understood need to as well.

In this pursuit audio recordings are your best friend.  With the accessibility to recording devices on every cell phone out there you have no excuse to not record key messages and review them for clarity of communications.  The following are some of the main things you might want to look and listen for...

  • Think first of what you are attempting to do with the message you intend to deliver.  Are you trying to explain, persuade, motivate?  The goal of your message will have an impact on the 'how' of your delivery.  Be clear about this before reviewing your recording, providing a measure to review your messages against.
  • Pay attention to the speed of your delivery - both voice and body. Neither should appear manic! Too much speed will seem out-of-control and decrease the credibility of both you and your message.  However, if you are looking to motivate and excite your audience your voice and movements should be a little faster than normal, that heightened energy helping to drive them to also feel excited. If your message is more thoughtful or serious then your movements and voice should be slightly slower than is usual for you, providing a little more gravitas, generating a message that you are in control of the situation and affording the audience a little more time to take in the information and process it.
  • Ensure that your gestures are sized in proportion to the message and the audience. If you are delivering to smaller audiences your gestures will occur within your own personal space. If speaking to a larger audience then you will have to extend your gestures further for them to be seen. 
  • Your voice must project and drive the emotional response that you want from your audience and needs to fit the message you are delivering.  You cannot expect to motivate and inspire the crowd if you sound bored with what you are sharing. Lead and model the response you want them to emulate.
  • Pay attention to the direction of your hands. Gesturing up is positive while downward is negative.  Both have their uses but each must support the content. Gesturing downward while attempting to convince your audience that good days are ahead will lead your audience to distrust you and to believe the situation is worse than they thought. 
  • Use your eye contact to connect your audience to you and your message. There is no better tool to use, to show you are interested in them (and not just on you and your message,) than connecting with them at a personal level. Your eye contact is a primary tool for doing this.
Watch for the above points while reviewing your video recordings, working to strengthen the alignment between your spoken and unspoken messages.  The closer you come to ensuring they are all saying the same thing, the stronger your messages, the greater your credibility and less often you will find yourself feeling the need to protest 'but... that's not what I meant'!

(and... if you require further direction or support in learning more about your body language and how to use it to greater advantage, just let us know!  That is, after all... what we do!)

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