When you wish to draw people to your side of an argument, a discussion or a sale, you probably spend a lot of time and energy thinking about what you should say. That’s an important skill to acquire. But ultimately it is wasted if you say the right things in the wrong way.
It’s not just what you say but how you say what you say. These eight rules can serve as a foundation for saying things right:
1. Be a good listener.
A Clark Gable type was asked about the source of his charm with the ladies. “They think I’m a great conversationalist,” he said.
What does it take to be a great conversationalist? “Knowing how to be a great listener” was his reply.
In too many conversations, there’s silence when there should be acknowledgment. There’s replying when restating is warranted. There’s interrupting and rushing — and mind wandering. Don’t do those things. Instead, pay attention and acknowledge explicitly what the other person has said.
2. Use proper body language.
Your posture and movements are as revealing and expressive as your spoken words. Study yourself in the mirror and learn which body language creates a good impression and the expressions that betray boredom, disagreement and dismissiveness. For example, folded arms say, “I’m not buying that.” Poor eye contact indicates, “I’m not interested.” And fidgeting says, “You’re boring me.”
3. Use communication etiquette.
The word etiquette may be old-fashioned but true politeness has not gone out of fashion, and the less people see of it in day-to-day interactions, the more they appreciate it. Say please and thank you. Don’t be afraid of superlatives or of showing extra respect and concern for another person. Do say things like “May I ask if you have any questions?” or “I do hope I was clear.”
Try “Thank you, that was interesting. You make a good point.”
4. Speak from the heart not just the brain.
It’s said that sincerity can’t be taught and if you don’t feel it, you can only deliver your best facsimile. I sincerely disagree. Showing sincerity is a trait that’s as learnable as any other virtue.
Speaking from the heart also gives you credibility with a listener. People who sell things or have to keep repeating a message can start sounding robotic. Speaking from the heart can avert that danger.
5. Put a smile on your voice.
Your smile is detectable in your attitude and your voice. Research has indicated that a smile triggers measurable activity in the area of your brain where happiness is registered. Since just smiling seems to make people happier, how could the sound of your smile fail to have a salutary effect on the person hearing it?
Your smile is one of your most powerful communication instruments. Enlist it to calm fears, soothe anger, express sympathy, soften resistance and engender confidence.
6. Use the right tempo.
What’s the right tempo for a conversation? Fast? Slow? Remember, communication is an art. So I will simply say, It depends. If you talk too fast for your listeners, you might leave them behind or, even worse, be perceived as insincere.
Talk too slowly and you might bore a listener or sound bored or unprepared. The right speed evinces energy and interest. In addition, by varying your tempo as appropriate, you prevent monotony.
7. Visualize yourself being successful.
You want to exude a positive attitude and self-confidence and you can’t do that if you are mentally criticizing yourself. Try imagining yourself as completely composed, organized and productive.
Visualize your goal. If you are trying to satisfy a customer, visualize yourself delivering perfect service. If you’re in a management situation, see yourself delivering great coaching. In peer interactions, imagine yourself receiving respect and cooperation.
8. Shun fear. Prepare instead.
You won’t say things right if you’re fearful and hesitant. Anxiety is the price you pay for an unprepared mind and mouth. So prepare. Find a partner to role-play with or just use a mirror. Practice applying the rules above. Role-playing can reduce your fear of rejection and failure. It gives you confidence and poise.