We all lived through the 2012 Presidential Election. If there is one thing everyone should be able to agree on about the election is the role communication played on a national level. The role of communication in informal interviews, in the debates, PAC commercials, in tone and word and visual impact.
When you think about it, the presidential candidates were both smart, well-educated men. Yet time and time again communication kept rearing its head as more important to voters than the economy, jobs, and war. What can we learn about the role of communication and how to use and leverage it in our everyday lives?
In my coaching work with clients I have them answer a question in the time it takes to walk across a room. First, I want to answer this specific question in the time it takes to walk across a room, not a football field. The answer to what we can learn about the role of communication is to be purposeful.
The second and longer answer is how to be purposeful on a daily basis. Purposeful is a word I keep using again and again. I find that I use this word in coaching a surgeon, a CPA, or a salesman. What I am saying is to make all aspects of your communication meaningful not accidental, subliminal or casual.
In communication it is always mindset first, and then give that mindset a voice. A verbal, vocal and visual voice. So first your mindset needs to be to make your communication purposeful. Then you have to figure out how to make each form of communication have meaning so that you are not like the buoy on the ocean bobbing up and down at someone else’s or something else’s will.
Make your gestures purposeful – President Clinton was known for his thumb pointing gesture. Although it was alittle odd, it was purposeful. A finger, a hand, an arm, taking a step or taking three steps all need to look purposeful. Colin Powell takes a powerful, well measured step; at I assume the exact same place in the exact same paragraph every time he gives the speech. You like Colin Powell, need to make it purposeful. That means that you do not look like Moses walking aimlessly around the desert.
Your words purposeful – Words have a specific meaning. First, select your words on purpose. Then you need to protect the meaning of the word by how you pronounce and interpret the words for your audience. “Sad” needs to sound “sad” and “happy” needs to sound different than “sad”.
Color purposeful – The visual is huge to the audience and color can make up a huge part of visual. If you want to convey that you are the right person to lead an organization then make your color choice purposeful. A bold color says “lead”, a neutral color says “follow”.
Silence purposeful – It is a challenge to make friends with silence. There is a difference between being quiet and being silent on purpose. Everyone knows the person at every meeting that has an opinion on every agenda item. Would purposeful silence enhance that person’s value? Do you start a presentation with ten seconds of silence or at least three seconds of silence? Do you protect the end of your comments with silence that lets your audience know that you are done?
Visual purposeful – Whether you sit or stand, whom you choose to sit next to, how you use the podium, whether your PowerPoint masters you or you master your PowerPoint, are all parts of the visual you convey to your audience. Did you select the type of microphone you will use on purpose, where does the battery pack go; will your jewelry interfere with the lapel mike?
Tone purposeful – Most people agree that we need a new policy on immigration . . . and soon. The tone of many people who were speaking caused alienation on both sides of the issue. Words are important. Then you either protect the words or hurt the words with the tone and emphasis in which they are said. Go back to mindset first. What do you want to convey and then test your tone (giving voice to your mindset) and see if your present tone helps convey that message.
Test yourself continuously and consistently. When you answer the phone are you purposeful, is the gesture you use purposeful, are your comments purposeful, do you select your words on purpose, the tie on purpose, the kind of microphone on purpose?
We are a sound bite society. We are lucky if we have the opportunity to get a sound bite of information across to our audience of one or one hundred. In the short time you have to communicate your value, are you being purposeful?