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July 14, 2014
Communicate with Impact and Influence
There are two roadblocks most individuals experience that prevent them from taking their communication from good to influential. First is being aware of the excuses they make for why they communicate the way they do. Second, how to fix them: Just do it and take action today. Imagine what you could do if you put the energy you use to make excuses into taking action. You would be so busy taking action that you wouldn’t have time or energy to make up excuses. Perhaps we make excuses rather than take action because it’s easier. Are we feeling vulnerable so we make excuses for how we’re really feeling? Do we replace action with excuses because we are covering up our vulnerability or lack of confidence? Or are we simply not aware of the excuses we make? 
I have the opportunity throughout the year to observe thousands of individuals deliver presentations, make sales calls, facilitate meetings, and participate in virtual and face-to-face conversations. Most individuals know what they don’t like about how others communicate. They will quickly comment:

“I can’t stand it when the person I’m talking to speaks with non-words.”
“It drives me crazy when the presenter talks to their visual aids or their notes.”
“I check emails in my meetings when the facilitator doesn’t use eye contact.”
“When I create my PowerPoint or Keynote decks I know my material so I don’t talk to the screen.”
“The speaker gives me permission to tune out when they ramble and take too long to get to the point.”

Why do these same individuals who are quick to give others feedback communicate the same way? They never use pauses or look at their listeners long enough to connect. 

They frequently talk to their visual aids and notes as if they’re having a relationship with these elements. Rambling is their middle name because they never get to the point quickly enough for their listeners to hear them.

Communicating with influence and impact takes an immense amount of hard work and discipline. It’s more difficult than most people realize. When I hear the following excuses, I know it’s a way for these individuals to ignore the hard-to-hear truth about why they don’t have the impact or influence they wish they had.
“If I had time to prepare I wouldn’t use non-words.” What? When you take a close look at your day-to-day interactions, you rarely have time to prepare. Non-words don’t suddenly fall from the sky when you don’t have your message written down word for word. Whether you’re prepared or not, you use non-words to buy yourself time to think on your feet. Keep in mind that non-words are not limited to “uh” and “um.” Non-words include: and, so, but, however, actually, well, now, basically, like, you know, OK, right…

We even use non-word phrases:

“What I meant to say…”
“To be honest with you…”
“I am going to ask you a question…”
“I may be way off base here, but…”
“Good question…”

“When I’m comfortable with my topic I’m more effective.” You’re fooling yourself. Just because you feel comfortable doesn’t guarantee that your listeners perceive you as comfortable. Perception is reality and until you videotape yourself in action to see and hear what your listeners see and hear, you’re missing opportunities to take your communication from good to influential.

“When I know my topic I’m more confident, engaging, and will interact with my listeners more often.” Translation: when you don’t know your topic you’re boring and your listeners are there just to fill up space. Knowing your topic is one step to communicating with influence. In just one day we’re communicating a variety of topics. You can’t possibly be knowledgeable on every topic.

If you want to communicate with impact and influence, you need to be confident, be engaging, and interact with your listeners all the time. Individuals who’ve been able to take their communication from good to influential don’t have options during the day to decide when they want to communicate with confidence and when they want to be boring. 

“I communicate with individuals who just are not interested in my topic.” Wake-up call! You’re not interesting. As difficult as this may be to hear, you need to hear the truth to get over this hurdle. 

As I was working with a group of sales professionals, one individual asked, “What do I do? My clients are not interested in our products and therefore they’re not buying.”
My response: “You’re not interesting.”

This is the hard truth for a lot of individuals, whether you’re a sales professional or not.  Every day we’re selling ourselves, our ideas, and our solutions. If you’re not influencing your listener to act on what you have to say, it’s time to take a close look at how interesting you are. 

Individuals fall into four quadrants:
  • Action
  • Able
  • Questionable
  • Arguable
These four quadrants will determine how open or closed, confident or insecure you are to replacing your excuses with action. They will also determine the level of influence and impact you have. 

When you’re closed-minded and insecure, you’ll tend to argue new ideas and concepts for enhancing your communication skills. This approach will keep you in the arguable quadrant and will get the same results you always get as a result of your communication skills. Nothing productive can happen when you’re stuck in this quadrant.
When you’re open-minded yet insecure, you begin to question new ideas and concepts for enhancing your communication skills. It’s as if you’re taking a peek from underneath the covers to see if there is something better. This is a step in the right direction because you’re more open to learning how to increase your level of impact and influence.

When you’re closed-minded and confident, you’re able to enhance your communication skills to have more impact and influence others to take action. Confidence will begin to take over excuses and turn them into action. In this quadrant you’re more likely to cross over into the Action quadrant because you have the confidence to improve. 

When you reach the fourth quadrant, Action, you have more impact and influence. Being confident and open-minded is a strong combination. The challenge: Are you willing to do the work to reach action?

Speaking of Action: Action Steps 
  • What was the last excuse you made because you didn’t make a sale, your meeting wasn’t as successful as you had hoped, or you’re not getting the results you want? 
  • Before making the next excuse, ask for specific feedback on how your communication is being perceived. You may be surprised when the feedback is different from how you perceive yourself.

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Stacey Hanke is the founder and communication expert of Stacey Hanke Inc communication. In her book Yes You Can! she reveals practical and immediate skills and techniques to enhance verbal skills to influence others. Stacey helps individuals eliminate the static that plagues communicative delivery to persuade, sell, influence, and effectively communicate face-to-face with a clear message. Learn more about Stacey at www.staceyhankeinc.com.
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