Let your words land. Connect with the other person. Picture your words arching away from you and landing on the other. (more…)
This article was originally featured in the January 2013 ARTiculate Newsletter. To receive our newsletter, click here.
Contributors: Hilary Blair, Diana Dresser, Robin Miller and Ailish Riggs
This month, we’re taking a deeper look into some of our hypercorrection choices that muddy our attempt to communicate. When we hit or emphasize every word equally in a phrase or sentence, it is more difficult for our listeners to follow us. One of the best ways to guide our listeners to understand the meaning is to increase the prosodic (or musical and rhythmic) vocal choices we make while speaking. We want to differentiate our words from one another so that they have varying qualities in rhythm, pitch, tone, and stress. We use prosody to elevate or highlight the most important word, the operative, in a phrase. MANY GRAPHIC DESIGNERS UNDERSTAND THAT WRITING IN ALL CAPS REMOVES THE VISUAL CUES THAT HELP US READ AND MAKES IT SEEM AS IF WE ARE SHOUTING OR AT LEAST THAT EVERYTHING IS IMPORTANT. The same thing can happen with speech when we stress all syllables and words equally. Sometimes we dub it “the Shakespeare problem.”
thing… Words! We may know what we intend to say, and we may know what we intend for it to mean, but have you ever noticed when the words that we chose didn’t convey what we really meant?We need to think about what we are going to say and think about how the words could be heard. Think about the person that will be hearing these words, for the first time, on the receiving end. For instance, someone said to me the other day, “Thank you for the feedback.” I had to think about these words for a minute because, in my mind, I wasn’t giving feedback, I was just offering an update on a specific situation. That person heard it as feedback.Let’s remember: our words matter and can create either clear or muddled communication.
Robin A. Miller, Ph.D
When we connect we feel the energy shift with our audience; they lean in, they ask more questions (not fewer), we see recognition in their eyes, they may nod or take notes, we sense they “get” what we are communicating.
It is not the perfection that matters, it is when the connection creates a meaningful experience.
Sharing information with others is the goal. It can be a phone call, an email, a keynote, a meeting, a thank you card, a water cooler conversation, a quarterly update – the list goes on. No matter the situation, we are attempting to convey a message so that the folks on the listening side “get” our meaning and understand our intent.
So often that attempt at communicating goes awry – we misinform, we misunderstand, we misinterpret – we miss.
Any suggestions given about how to keep the body open, the hands connected to meaning, the message clear, and the breath grounded – that’s all about connection and not perfection. The perfecting details of technique are simply given to help remove the blocks that hinder clear and palpable connection.
Sometimes the connection is made despite the monotone voice, lack of eye contact, repetitive use of hands, distracting non-verbals, etc.
Many of us have been moved by speeches and TED talks where the speaker had less than perfect public speaking “technique”. The heart and intention of the speaker were clearly received.
And yet, sometimes the connection cannot make it through the distractions and miscues. The intended messages either don’t make it or are misunderstood – things can run amuck.
The goal is connection. All the training and tricks and coaching and suggestions for clearer communication are about connection – not perfection.
Sometimes, it’s the pursuit of perfection that hinders our communication.
If your attempt at perfecting the perfect stance, the perfect hand gestures, or the perfect phrasing impedes connection – then it’s the wrong goal.
I have a mentor who said, “If you meet someone who uses his or her voice perfectly all the time, run the other way. Don’t walk, run.” Perfect vocal usage all the time suggests that the person is too in control and most likely hiding the truth about themselves or the situation.
Pursuit of perfection at the expense of connection is useless show. The “perfect” messaging goes nowhere if there is no connection. Literally, the perfectly crafted email goes nowhere without the correct address. Figuratively, the perfectly crafted speech goes nowhere without the connection to the audience.
There is no perfect presentation style.
Be committed to making your connection authentic and effective – not perfect.
Then again, if the connection is authentic, isn’t it perfect?
written by Hilary Blair
Artwork by Stevie Caldarola
written by Hilary Blair
My ah-ha! – You revealed, unveiled, realized
While working with a client recently, I said what I have said countless times — “I’m not teaching you anything you don’t know – I’m giving you permission to express what is in you. These are not new ideas; they are just a little sleepy in you. I share with you techniques that help you express what is awakening.” And he looked at me knowingly, understanding it to be true. And again, I am exhilarated and charged as if it is the first time, each time I see the joy in the eyes of the speaker as he or she realizes, “yes, I do know how to do this.”
It’s like Michelangelo. Quickly I clarify; I’m not saying I’m Michelangelo. But it dawned on me that it’s just like he said that he could see what was – not even what could be, but what was already present.
“In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and in action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”
Coaches are there to guide you — to be who we see you already are. We are like bowling bumpers to keep you rolling for a strike. In all my years of teaching I’m still startled when people don’t see how amazing they are when I see it seemingly so plainly. Often, I see people where I know they can be, where I know they are.
I invite you to see what I’m seeing – you in all your excellence and grace and balance of human imperfection that is of itself, perfection. I invite you to step into you.
written by Robin A. Miller, PhD
During this holiday season, I received a present from my parents. They had created a CD of compiled scenes from my childhood. Not only did I have precious memories now in my possession, I also had a hard copy of the stories that I had shared with friends and family. These stories were difficult to believe without seeing them. Now I have the proof!
What I have noticed this year through coaching is that story continues to compel listeners to pay attention to our presentations or keynotes, as it has always done through the ages. Story has also become important in the interviewing process: interviewers ask the interviewee to remember, to share, and to compare. They are looking for story and for patterns.
When I think back on memorable presentations or sermons, I can always recite the story. Facts fade; data comes and goes, unless very compelling and connected to story; and what is left is the visual and sensory image of a story, a feeling, a place, a time, an event. These stories are a recounting of an experience that usually transformed a person’s life, moving her/him from one place to the next.
As we move into the New Year, I encourage all of us to think about our story. How does our story connect to or reflect what we would like to convey? Does our story connect to what the listener wants to hear? How can the events of our lives be used to share our voice in the world?
Let’s look back on the video of our life, moving forward into the New Year, and use it to provide meaning in all we say and share.
written by Kenny Storms
Years ago I saw a painting that, to this day, has left a lasting impression on me. In the painting there was a depiction of a human figure that was completely covered in eyes. The symbolism revealed in this picture was that our identity, how we perceive the world, how we look at those around us, how we see ourselves, is in part created by the eyes of those individuals with whom we find ourselves spending time. If this is true, then I have to bring attention to the voices that have surrounded me. I have worn every influential voice, both positive and negative,like a jacket and this jacket reflects these influential voices through my thoughts which, often, echoes through my lips.
These days I am blessed with a chorus of voices that are propelling me upwards and onwards; both personally and in my work. It has not always been this way. In my past, I had become very comfortable with voices that pushed me downward and “offward.” This loud murmur that led, figuratively, to a deafening silence and a voice lost. I had to work and am continuing to work, even fight, to hear voices that create a positive influence so that I continue the growth of my own voice. I write about this particular topic because I think, as we come into this New Year, we should take a moment to listen to the voices that are around us.
If our desire is to be the best that we can be in whatever facet of life we find ourselves, and if we are influenced by the voices circling us, then it seems we should submerse ourselves in the best voices. The voices that propel, guide, and push us to those points that we are unsure or unaware that we can reach. Because maybe, one day we will reach out and grab that ledge and we will be that voice for another.
But the verdict is still out.
I wish the eye-covered figure in the painting had also been bound in ears and veiled in mouths. The eyes reflect out, the ears reflect in, and the voice is a combination of the two. What do you hear, what does your voice reflect, and what is echoed back?
written by Ailish Riggs
This has been a whirlwind of a year with plenty of change, including a cross-country move that holds a whole new adventure! It has also been a year full of new perspectives that have challenged long held ideas about myself and my interactions with the world. I’ve realized how often life’s many distractions have kept me from being fully present with those around me and with the world in which I live.
As my perspectives have begun to shift, I have become more keenly aware of how the challenge, for all of us, of being present is increasingly difficult. In a world that encourages disconnection, whether it be through technology, media, or even our own busy-ness, it has become acceptable to split our focus and multitask. But we, as a whole, are losing out. We are shutting down our potential for vulnerability and for growth, losing our ability to engage in honest and open exchanges, and neglecting the potential for investing in the personal relationships that shape us.
So as I move forward, my goal is to opt out of distraction and engage with presence – to become more fully open and aware. To dismiss the seemingly valid reasons I give myself for not connecting and to approach my friends, colleagues – and even those I don’t know – with the time and attention that we humans, as equals inhabiting this planet, deserve. I hope you will engage with me!
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