I was in a meeting the other day and counted my peer hum in agreement eighteen times in sixty seconds. Literally, I counted while she hummed and I don’t think I was alone in being distracted throughout the meeting. I was reminded of a great Ted Talk by Tara Mohr called Crimes of Conversation where she discusses both the verbal and non verbal tics anyone can be susceptible to when trying to communicate/influence others to moving our own objectives forward.
We See Before We Hear. There are a few studies out there that conclude our body language drives 55% of the message, tone of voice 38% and the words themselves only carry 7% of the message. Being mindful of arms opened or closed, making eye contact, and the overall facial expression will actually have more of an influence on how you are heard than the actual sentences you knit together so pay attention to your posture and how you connect to your peers through your eyes to ensure you’re leveraging all of the above when you have the floor.
What Was That Again? Pay attention if you are using the “non filler” words to fill the space in between your spoken thoughts. Uh-huhs, umms, and the hum are all material distractors to your message and if over used, people start counting these words instead of listening to your message. If you’re concerned you may fall prey to this trap, check in before the meeting regarding your data – if you know what you’re going to say, you’re less likely to lean on the non filler’s to complete your message.
Hear What I Mean, Not What I Say. A friend of mine’s boss was famous for using this quote in his exchanges with the team. He struggled with articulating his message and tried to push it on his direct reports to read between the lines while he rattled on, lost in his own language. I learned a long time ago, plain speak is always better when communicating with others and if you can share the same thought in twenty words or two hundred words, go the shorter route every time. People are easily distracted, especially in meetings, and your message may be lost simply because your listeners either assume they know what you’re going to say or have lost interest because it’s taking too long to get to the end.
Some of the most successful people I know are so, not because they’re the smartest, but because they are superior when it comes to reading any given room and adapting their communications style to best guarantee they’ll engage their audience and have their thoughts heard and acted upon.
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