EPMEPM: Productivity

Communication Changes Your Destination

Did you know that it can take as little as seven seconds for someone to make a judgement about you based on influences and experiences in their lives to date? Warren Tate explains why you need to be conscious of the impression you are leaving.

The moment a stranger sees you, his or her brain is making millions of assumptions and computations. In fact, the human brain takes in 40 pieces of information every second and quickly starts to make sense of the surroundings. Are you friend or foe? Are you someone to approach or to avoid? Are you trustworthy, competent, likeable, confident? Do you have status and authority?

These assumptions are made in the blink of an eye – in the first seven seconds of meeting you, people can make a definitive call on whether they want to work with you or not.

While you can’t stop people from making snap decisions, you can understand how to make those decisions work in your favour.

First impressions are more heavily swayed by non-verbal cues than verbal cues. In fact, studies have found that non-verbal cues have over four times the impact on the impression you make than anything you say. First impressions are also influenced by how you dress. Let’s be honest; through our upbringing, socially, culturally and in business, we have built up patterns on what we think when we see people in different forms of attire.

If we see something out of ‘our’ ordinary it stands out, grabs our attention and we question, make assumptions or judgements. If we conform, we fit in and look the part and the same as others. People will judge you by what you wear; that is not going to change, so wear what you feel comfortable in. Be authentic to who you are and own it.

If you have a choice of dressing up, fitting in or dressing down, what would you choose? By taking a little effort and choosing to look the best you can, people will notice and you will be perceived differently. However, always be yourself, because how you dress will only take you so far.

If I asked you what had more impact on you when you were making small talk or having a business conversation with someone, would you say it was the words they spoke, the way they sounded when they spoke those words or the look on their face when they were speaking?

If you were not clear about what their words meant, or what they were emphasising with the words, you will lean heavily on how they looked and sounded when speaking to figure out what they were actually talking about.

Albert Mehrabian has conducted extensive research into communication and found the impact of a message on a receiver, its perceived meaning, is based not on what was said but on how it was said.

Results showed 55 per cent of the meaning or the impact the person made came from the look on their face and about 38 per cent from the tone of their voice. Now that doesn’t leave much room for the words – only 7 per cent. We have been using this kind of information for many years. How is it that people understand, or fail to understand, messages that are communicated to them in face-to-face conversations?

Our non-verbals operate in three ways in our direct communication:

  1. They can affect the actual meaning being conveyed verbally
  2. They can shape the type of relationship that we are creating with another person
  3. They can directly communicate our emotion before and during speech.

Albert Mehrabian’s findings have been applied to all communication by many who present communication coaching sessions. However, they were the results of experiments that involved communication of feelings and emotions, not the majority of everyday face-to-face interactions.

Non-verbal cues can affect overall communication or conversation in a number of ways.

First of all, there could be a substitute for a verbal message. You enter a room when you are having a bad day; you have a defeated look, poor posture, drooping shoulders – nobody needs to ask you how your day is going. You’ve already told them.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”

Your body language sends its own message; this is where non-verbal reinforces the verbal message, such as pounding the table to show how angry you are while you are actually speaking in anger. You can contradict yourself; a person who is about to give a speech may say they are not nervous while they are sweating and pacing. Someone who says, ‘I am not angry!’ in a loud and confronting manner is very contradictory.

Secondly, non verbals can shape the kind of message you are creating with another. The way we look at people makes a great difference to how we feel about the connection between us. How long we look into someone’s eyes while we talk, the proximity or distance between us, whether or not we touch them, how we raise or lower our voice when we talk to them – all these are representative of relationship through non-verbal communication. Interpersonal communication always has content and relationship dimensions.

The third aspect is that non-verbals simultaneously communicate our feelings without words. The look on our face and the sound of our voice create and convey emotions or feelings when we are sending a message. Face to face is the primary signal system for communicating emotions.

Face-to-face communication is the number one determining factor in real estate success. Communication changes your destination.

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