Is your communication congruent?
That is, do your facial expression and your gestures and your tone of voice match the words you’re saying? If not, you’re likely to have trouble getting your message across.
I tell my clients all the time, “If what you say and what they see doesn’t match — people will believe what they see.”
You know this from your own experience, of course. Somewhere along the line, you’ve heard a scowling somebody snarl through gritted teeth, “I’m not mad!” Regardless of the words, it’s clear that they are, in fact, furious, right?
This is why it’s so important that your visual, vocal and verbal messages match whether you’re talking with one client, meeting with a small group around a conference table, or speaking to a roomful of people.
I was reminded of that, reading the L.A Times’s piece about the first business day of the new administration.
“Trump began his first full weekday in office by meeting with business leaders in the White House as television cameras recorded the moment … He gathered labor leaders to his side … later he met with congressional leaders… “
“It was routine for a president — and that was the point.”
Why was it so important for the new president to be seen taking part in a typical presidential work day?
As Cathleen Decker wrote, “Media studies have shown that visuals register more strongly than the spoken or written word; viewers — which means voters — are captivated by what they see and tend to ignore what they hear.”
Yes. And, the importance of the visual goes way beyond television.
In real life too, appearances are critical for business speakers. And I don’t mean that we have to be conventionally attractive—although that certainly doesn’t hurt. (The research is clear: for both men and women, good looks are a significant advantage in business.)
It does suggest that we need to manage how we come across, so that what people see in us conveys the impression we want them to have.
That might mean professional dress or hairstyle. It surely means that we use posture, gestures and facial expression to our advantage.
If we try to run a meeting, for instance, but we look like someone who’s never been in charge of anything, the session is unlikely to be productive.
I met a woman recently who said she does energy work. I have to say, I’ve rarely encountered a professional with less energy. Everything about her seemed subdued, low-key, even dull. If I were looking for help with energy, would I choose her?
If you’re a consultant or a bookkeeper or a virtual assistant, you’re selling organizational skills. And if you look discombobulated, you’re not going to get very far.
You might start watching for examples of mismatched verbal and visual messages. When you notice that you’re skeptical of someone, and you’re not even sure why, it’s a good bet you’re picking up on incongruity. See if you can figure out what’s causing that.
And of course, self-observation is invaluable here. Are you sending mixed messages with your posture or the way you move, or with your face? (Hint: if you’re asking me to trust you but you don’t look me in the eye, I believe what I see and conclude you’re not really trustworthy.)
I’d love to hear what you pick up from others around you and from their reactions to you. Post a comment below to share your experience with us.