By Stacey Hanke, Owner, 1st Impression Consulting, Inc.
Communicating meaningfully is becoming more difficult than ever before. While technology has created an ever-increasing number of ways to communicate rapidly over great distances, many people are now so well insulated and protected by these devices we use that we are losing the skills and abilities to communicating in the most influential way—face to face.
There’s a real danger to the maintenance and perpetuation of meaningful communications and personal and professional relationships. If you become overly dependent on e-mail or text messages, you focus on the object, but not the person. As a result, you become uncomfortable communicating face to face.
Tweets, text messages, e-mail, and Facebook posts all transmit words over distances so they can be received without the sender’s presence. The human element and context are absent.
These messages are typically short, sequential, and directed. There’s no instantaneous interaction or connection that allows the other person to understand the tone, inflection, or emotion that is carried with the words. The sender cannot effectively project the elements of trust, confidence, credibility, and concern that are crucial to developing and building a relationship.
That failure to convey the feelings that accompany the words so people build trust, credibility, and understanding can have a phenomenal impact on business and success, including:
Meaningful communications that carry these powerful and important characteristics can only be achieved in face-to-face interactions.
Communicating with impact and achieving influence is not only about what you say—it’s also how you say it. You have influence on others because you see their face, observe and experience their message, and actively listen and engage their interest to build relationships.
There are also certain topics of conversation where face-to-face communication will be the best way to achieve clarity and understanding needed for mutual success and beneficial action. These include:
Face-to-face communication is a crucial skill. It requires you to focus. You must be comfortable in the presence of other people for more than a few minutes.
Communicating with impact and influence face to face also requires discipline, determination, and self-control.
To increase your impact and influence, begin applying these eight must-haves:
1. Make your moments together count. Everyone has the right to speak. Listen before you speak. Earn the right to be heard. Think about what you want to say before you say it. Make every communication moment worth your and your listener’s time. Every word counts. Think before you speak. Tailor what you say to meet your listener’s needs.
2. Pay attention by listening for the unspoken emotions. Concentrate on the speaker closely. Focus intently on their face. Do not let your eyes dart away and drift off, since that signals you are no longer paying attention. Do not interrupt. Wait to speak only when the person has finished what they want to say. Hear their words and read their face so you gain maximum understanding of the why behind their words.
3. Honor the other person’s time. Prepare and get to the point quickly by speaking in short and concise sentences. Replace your non-words (“uh,” “um,” “so,” “you know…”) with a pause to find your thought. Avoid rambling and cluttering your message with unnecessary points. Ask for a clear and specific action. Don’t take 20 minutes when you only asked for 10.
4. Prepare for your face-to-face meeting ahead of time. K.N.O.W. your listener.
Tailor your agenda and message to achieve the understanding you need and to influence your listener to act on what you have to say.
5. Watch your body language.Avoid non-verbal abuse. Every movement you make counts. Control your facial expressions. Don’t smile, snicker, whistle, roll your eyes, grimace, look sideways, wink, or send the evil eye. Your behavior and non-verbal cues are as important as the words you say. Don’t fidget, act nervous, express fear, or allow your posture to convey uncertainty, insincerity, lack of caring, arrogance, overconfidence, dismay, or criticism.
6. Be sincere and authentic. Speak in your authentic voice. Be sincere, be genuine, and allow others to see the real you.
7. Maintain the power of the floor. Be interesting. Watch for the signs that you are no longer the center of attention:
Stop. Earn their attention. Get back on track.
8. Ask for feedback. Face-to-face communications is a two-way street. Balanced feedback allows people to be relaxed and comfortable. However, when people start feeling comfortable, they also may become lazy and lose their professionalism. Don’t forget who you are and what you are doing. Ask for specific feedback on things such as the points you raised, the manner in which you presented, the way you responded. Give yourself feedback by asking, “What worked and what didn’t work?”
When you begin to eliminate the static that plagues your one-on-one, person-to-person communication, everything else you do will improve dramatically, as well.
Stacey Hanke is owner of 1st Impression Consulting, Inc. She is the co-author of “Yes You Can! Everything You Need From A-Z to Influence Others to Take Action” and featured author of the book, “Conversations on Success,” on which she partnered with Chicken Soup for the Soul’s Jack Canfield and “Fish Philosophy” author John Christensen. She is a member of the National Speakers Association, and her client list includes Coca-Cola; Kohl’s; TransUnion; Novartis Animal Health US, Inc.; United States Army and Navy, Leo Burnett; and the FDA. For more information, visit www.1stimpressionconsulting.com or e-mail her at Stacey.email@example.com.