By J.J. Peller
When you see or hear the word “snow,” what comes to mind? What do you feel?
If you were born and raised in South Florida and have never left the area, you may only know the word “snow” through pictures you’ve seen and stories you’ve read or heard.
If you live in the midwest United States, you likely have a very different association with the word “snow.”
I’ve asked this question to a few hundred people while speaking with groups around the country, and I’ve heard everything from “Joyful and cozy!” to “Yuck! Awful! Keep it away!”
Every human has a unique association with the word “snow” because every human has his or her own experiences and interactions with snow over his or her lifetime.
You might be asking:
‘What’s SNOW Got to Do With Success?’
Snow likely has very little to do with success – unless, of course, you own and run a snow removal business. But this example of the word “snow” and how people perceive it has everything to do with success.
As George Bernard Shaw said: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
And that is exactly why communication is the most important skill most people don’t develop. Most people believe they’re communicating effectively, while the reality is they’re not. For instance, it would be easy (and wrong) to assume everyone has the same personal definition of the word “snow.” Self-improvement pioneer Paul J. Meyer was right when he said, “Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.
Follow these three actionable tips for better communication to propel you more quickly toward the success you desire.
1. Use the Other Person’s ‘Language’
Imagine you travel to a different country and go out for a nice meal. Would you expect the waiter to speak your language, or would you expect to make an effortful attempt to speak in his language?
I hope you’d at least attempt to speak in the other person’s language. Unfortunately, too many people don’t take this same approach with the people they communicate with daily in their native language. Even when someone you’re communicating with does speak English, that person has a different dialect because different words can mean different things to them. Think back on the “snow” example.
Speaking in another person’s language requires intentional effort, but it’s something you can start doing today.
Pay close attention to the specific words and phrases the people around you use. The more you can align your words and phrases with theirs, the more likely your message will land with them.
2. Manage Your Emotional State
We embody the emotions we sense in anyone we’re interacting with. Therefore, it’s vital to keep your emotions under your control instead of letting them be influenced by the random emotions of the person or people you’re communicating with.
Here are three quick steps to manage your emotional state:
1. Breathe. It sounds simple (and it is), but it must be habituated in your life in order to work. Slow down and take two to three deep, slow breaths before responding to someone when you’re feeling angry, agitated or frustrated.
2. Be curious. Ask the other person questions in a sincerely curious way. You can’t be angry or frustrated while curious. Make an effort to understand where the other person is coming from with his or her perspective.
3. Write your emotional intent. Grab a 3×5 notecard and write on it exactly how you want to be. For instance, if you want to remind yourself to be cool, calm, confident, joyful and patient in an upcoming conversation or meeting, write on your notecard: I am cool, calm, confident, joyful and patient.
Put your notecard in a place where you will see it often during the day. Mine is taped to the bottom of my computer monitor. Looking at it throughout the day will help you to stay reminded of how you want to be in every moment of the day.
3. Be Intentional With Your Non-Verbal Moves
Psychologist Dr. Albert Mehrabian did a study at UCLA in the 1960s to explore how emotions are communicated from one person to another. His research found that communication occurs through three main modes: words, tonality and physiology.
The research findings suggested that each of these three modes has a different weighting of importance in the communication of emotions. The study suggested these three modes are weighted in importance as follows: 7% spoken words, 38% tonality of voice and 55% physiology (body language, facial expressions).
This breakdown of weightings suggests tonality is more than five times as important as words, and physiology (i.e. body language, facial expressions) is nearly eight times as important as words in communicating emotions from one person to another.
Become more aware of your own body language and voice tonality. Remember, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it that makes the difference. Slow down enough in your daily interactions with others to notice your body language and facial expressions. By starting to be aware of yourself, you’ll begin to take control of your own nonverbal language.
Your Next Step: Decide to Master This Skill
Mastery of any skill begins with making the choice to master the skill. You will not become great at communication without the decision to become great at it. Decide now: Will you become great at communication? If yes, start implementing these simple, actionable steps that I shared in this article today!
About the Author
J.J. Peller is an Executive Business Coach with Carson Coaching. He is an Associate Certified Coach through the International Coaching Federation. J.J. offers services to help financial advisors unleash their full potential and accelerate growth and success.