Get clear about your intention and goal in any conversation, beforehand. (definitely)
Bring more rigor to the words you choose. (absolutely)
Clarify your message. (important)
Know that every conversation you have is causing something, so be intentional. (more than you realize)
Watch and manage your tone, body language and facial expression, as they can speak louder than your words. (truth)
...Those tenets are a big, and bring big impact. I coach to them all the time, as they start to get at the power of our communication. Because communication is so much more than the content of our words.
There’s the intent or goal of the communication…. what we want to HAVE out of it. So many skip this step, yet it can make all the difference, when inserted right before diving in to an exchange... Out of this communication, I want to have… agreement? collaboration? the other person put in their place? Hm.
Then there’s the delivery. Those nonverbal messages we’re sending (tonality, facial expression, body language) as we communicate… what we DO in the conversation.
Of those parts… people get and trust what we’re DOing in the conversation more than the content. If I'm saying one thing, but messaging another in my tone, body language and facial expression, you'll go with the nonverbals. There’s often a huge disconnect between the messages coming from our words and from our delivery (picture a teacher/coach/boss talking to their brood about getting fired up in an expressionless way).
And yet there’s another lesser-known key to it all. Even more powerful than what you’re DOing in in that standard formula of words + tonality + facial expression/body language… is what comes before any of that, and could be sabotaging the whole thing for you. You’ve had interactions where you said the right things, did the right things, but actually didn’t get the impact you wanted, right? I certainly have.
In those moments of frustrated communication, we get in our own way because it’s more than what we say or how we say it. Despite message, word rigor, causality and nonverbal awareness…
It’s about who we’re BEing.
That is... who are you mentally, emotionally and physically being at the time? What State are you in? What’s your mindset? Here’s the challenge… We all have countless versions of ourselves which we end up BE-ing at any moment, without ever thinking about it. Yet rarely do we create a moment to check it, and make sure it’s the version we need to BE in the moment for what we’re trying to accomplish.
I can BE: calm, nurturing, positive, connected, excited, all-in committed, inspiring, partnering, empathetic, flexible, curious, interested, loving, patient, listening, disarming, lighthearted, open, laser-focused, empassioned, relentlessly optimistic, intense in a motivating way…
I can also BE: distracted, pushy, steamroller-y, defensive, submissive, impatient, cynical, rigid, negative, resentful, judgmental, task-y, inaccessible, fake, passive-aggressive, aloof, insensitive, closed off, already decided, intense in an intimidating way…
We could pick any one of those (BEs), and quickly predict how it would impact what I might DO differently in each one, and then what I might Have as a result. Pretty simply:
Do: Really listen with full attention, truly imagine and try on every idea another person is saying, allow uninhibited connections to occur, build on them. Communicate ideas about how we can work together. Keep body language open, relaxed, possibly leaning in. Eye contact is direct, connecting.
Have: Collaboration with my partner
Now go back through that Be-Do-Have plan changing to BE-ing Defensive instead of Open.
The whole thing changes and now doesn’t work, right? If I really tried to force those same behaviors (the DO) from a place of really BEing defensive- I’d come across as inauthentic, and in no way get true collaboration with my partner out of that conversation. This type of communication fail happens all the time. The challenge is that we focus too much on what to DO, when who we’re BE-ing may be all wrong. This is usually because we just don’t think about it, or because we think it’s not visible to anyone else. We, as the wired-for-action creatures that we are, focus on what we should DO, best practice, and steps to the goal. Yet those only succeed if we’re executing them from the right place, which we may or may not have set consciously. I can use all the right words with the right message, even taking the right steps, but get no buy-in if I’m coming from a place that doesn’t match my outcome. That BE has everything to do with powering my impact, message, tonality, nonverbals and emotional energy… beyond the words I’m speaking.
Lately I’ve been bringing more attention and intentionality to this awareness before interactions. The results are powerful. With a client recently, I focused on BE-ing light, flexible and effortlessly positive- even while presenting a paradigm-altering idea. They were surprisingly agreeable and open to it. This was significant since I had presented the exact same idea to the same client a few weeks before, and they not only hated it, but were resistant, upset and unhappy with me about it. After that didn’t go well, I had to admit to myself that I was irritated with them, BEing insensitive, pushy and a know-it-all (all unconscious). It didn’t matter how right for them my good my ideas were- all they got was the pushy know-it-all I was BEing, so of course they weren’t engaged by my idea! Owning that, doing what I needed to do to come back BEing authentically positive, flexible and lighter... I had a completely different result.
The lesson for me?
Who I’m BEing will always speak louder than anything coming out of my mouth (and can’t be hidden in my nonverbals to those who know how to read them). Before I respond or communicate I must first get clear on what Intention I want someone to feel in my communication, and focus on it. Get myself present- IN it. Then go!
Try this out:
Develop an awareness in the moment of who you’re BE-ing and what it’s causing.
After interactions with people, ask yourself:
• What did we both Have at the end of that interaction? This is the result, the takeaway- both concrete and invisible?
Examples: we both had frustration; or connection; or a great solution we couldn’t have gotten to alone
• What did I Do in that interaction to cause what we both ended up with?
Examples: I didn’t really listen; I really listened and empathized; I acknowledged and built on his ideas
• Who was I BE-ing in that interaction?
Examples: I was being impatient; present in their world; open and partnering
The more you do this, them more you’ll be able to catch yourself in the moment and make adjustments.
Before you respond or communicate in a moment, pause to get clear on what you want someone to feel in your communication, or what you want to come out of it. Then find the corresponding way of BEing that could cause that, see if it’s different than where you are, and shift it.
Notice your patterns. Do conversations seem to end in frustration when you’re coming into them BEing defensive? Are you able to have your best moments of connection with people when you allow everything else to go out of your head and are just BEing present in and focused on their world? When you’re rushed, do your interactions become tense (perhaps you’re BEing tense when you’re slammed with other stuff)? Do you tend to have better or worse interactions/influence with certain people, or with particular settings, which may be triggers for who you’re BEing?
Experiment with different ways to BE in your interactions. In low stakes situations (where you have a lot more control over your emotions), try isolating different versions of who you’re going to BE in a conversation beforehand, get yourself there, and notice what happens. As you continue to do this, you’ll get more precise and faster at it. Eventually, you’ll be able to do a quick reset with yourself going from interaction to interaction.
The true power of connecting with others in communication of any kind (leading, teaching, influencing…) comes down to this essence of who you are BEing in the moment. It powers your impact, message, tonality, nonverbals and emotional energy… before and beyond the words you’re speaking.