Most leaders believe they are more influential than they really are. Think about it. When was the last time you took a look at how your listeners perceive you when you are communicating rather than what you believe to be true? There may be a chance you are sabotaging your influence without even knowing it. This is why self-awareness is the first step to greater influence Monday to Monday®.
Influential communicators acknowledge that they don’t know everything, and they are open to self-discovery. It is natural human tendency to base our opinion of ourselves on how we feel when we communicate rather than on the facts of how we actually look and sound. Our thinking is, I feel good; therefore, I am good. More often than not, what we feel inside doesn’t translate to what listeners are seeing and hearing. We may believe that we are better communicators than others think we are. Or, the opposite may be true.
- Facts, not feelings. To enhance your influence, you need to evaluate your communication based on facts, not feelings. You need to get to the heart of what is really going on by experiencing your communication through the eyes and ears of your listeners and readers.
There are two primary ways to get the facts about your communication that will help grow your self-awareness. One is to proactively seek meaningful feedback. Getting feedback from others is an essential part of improving your communication and enhancing your influence.
- Prepare for feedback and make it simple. Prior to a meeting, presentation, face-to-face or virtual conversation, ask someone you trust to observe you and give you feedback. This may be a co-worker, mentor or family member. Ask this person to watch for specific, ineffective verbal and nonverbal behaviors you would like to change. For example, “I’m trying to avoid beginning my sentences with the word ‘so.’ Please let me know what you hear.”
Focus on one behavior at a time. When you focus on more than one, frustration may set in, convincing you to throw in the towel by going back to your old habits.
- Make the commitment this week to take a look through the eyes and ears of your listeners. In addition to feedback, the other way to get factual data about your communication is to watch yourself on video or listen to yourself on audio. Video acts like a mirror, enabling you to see exactly what others see and hear exactly what others hear when you communicate. What you see and hear is who you truly are when you communicate.
Video recording yourself is the only way I know to reveal the truth of what your listeners see and hear. As painful as it might be to watch and hear yourself, is it any worse than spending the rest of your career clueless as to what others are thinking about you or saying behind your back?
- Practice the power of the pause. Um, what perception, like, do you create, you know, when you hear, um, a speaker using, uh, words that clutter, you know, their language? “Knowledgeable,” “credible” and “confident” probably do not come to mind.
Most individuals use these filler words to buy themselves time to think about what they want to say or to avoid silence. Pausing gives your listener a chance to hear, understand and absorb your message. When you create a two-way conversation with your audience, you are able to adjust your message based on their needs and expectations.
Replace non-words by taking time to pause and b-r-e-a-t-h-e. If your message is cluttered with non-words, your audience may see you as someone who is unable to perform their job or as someone who lacks knowledge.
Pausing guarantees you will not lose your credibility and your audience’s attention. The benefits of pausing are essential to influencing your audience to take action.
- Connect with purpose. Eye connection is the only delivery skill that conveys trust and believability. Without this skill, you increase the risk of not creating or maintaining a relationship with your listener. If they do not trust you as a partner, leader or motivator, they will never be influenced to take action based on your message.
Only speak when you see eyes! Every time you look away from your listener to refer to your notes, visual aids or to simply give you and your listener a break, pause.
When you forget what to say, where do you tend to look? At the ceiling, floor or anywhere away from your audience? Yes. When you disconnect with your audience, do you say, “Uh,” “um,” “well,” etc.? At this very moment, you instantly communicate to your audience that you do not know what to say. You begin to lose trust and credibility.
With eye connection, you will avoid non-words and gain control by allowing yourself to think on your feet. When you are focused with your eyes, you will be focused in your thoughts.
Put a 30-day action plan together today to make these five how-to’s a part of your day-to-day communication. To take your career to the next level, you have to be influential Monday to Monday.® Imagine the reputation you could create for yourself and the level of influence you could have if you put the same amount of effort, focus and preparation into every interaction. There are very few people who consistently communicate with influence. If you can train yourself to do that, you will set yourself apart from the crowd.