by Jack Pyle, Fellow PRSA
No leadership skill is more important than the ability to be persuasive; to speak with confidence and competence. The same statement could be made for all professionals, but it is especially true for managers. You must be able to be persuasive and credible if you are to convince others to use your ideas.
Managers can increase their credibility with staff, senior executives, clients and the public by strengthening their speaking and leadership communication skills. Fortunately, everyone can learn to be more dynamic and persuasive.
Simply by using the power of body language, you quickly increase your credibility and improve your ability to influence others with your ideas.
First impressions are crucial to credibility. In his excellent book, You are the Message, Roger Ailes points out that you must make a good impression within just a few seconds. In a job interview, Joyce Brothers says you have about 30 seconds to make a good impression.
Nonverbal communication (body language) is a key ingredient in first impressions. Your appearance and style make a big difference in how others see and respond to you. President George Bush, Senior certainly learned this well when he overcame the “wimp image” the media tagged him with before the first debate of his initial presidential campaign. Roger Ailes coached Bush on how to use nonverbal communications techniques effectively.
Everyone is familiar with the phrase: “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” Even though we know this bit of folk wisdom is true, few people heed it. Where do most of us spend our time when getting ready to guide employees, present a proposal to management or staff, or respond to a crisis? We work on the words, the content. How many actually rehearse the presentation of the ideas and critique it? Is it any wonder we don’t do a better job of presenting our ideas?
Words are important. On the other hand, nonverbal communication carries most of meaning when you talk to another. Inflection (how the voice is used) also carries a significant portion of the meaning. You not only need to know what to say, it is very important to work on how you say it.
Some of the ways nonverbal messages are conveyed
- Tone of voice: Varying both volume and speed is important to make your voice interesting to others. Voices with a lower pitch have more authority than high pitched voices.
- Facial expressions: Smiling, good eye contact, and listening have a strong positive effect on others.
- Physical appearance and manner: Posture, handshake, gestures, energy level and use of humor affect your message delivery.
- Dress: Neatness counts. Darker colors command more respect. Make sure shoes are shined. Conservative classic styles work best to get a good response from others.
That’s a lot to think about, but here’s an easy way to remember what you need to do to increase your credibility. No matter how nervous you feel inside, using the following five tips will help you appear confident when you speak to others.
When you speak, remember S.P.E.A.K.
S is for smile. It’s one of your best communication tools. It always helps you make a good first impression, and it helps make others want to listen to you. Most managers need to smile more.
P is for posture. How you stand or sit makes a big difference. Your physical stance tells others how you feel about yourself. Confident people stand tall and sit straight.
E is for eye contact. A person who is believable and honest “looks you right in the eye.” Don’t stare, but look at a person’s face for at least three seconds before moving on to look at another person. If you are talking to a group, give your message to one person at a time. (This is important in the U.S. culture, but eye contact may have a very different meaning in another culture. If you are traveling abroad or meeting managers from other countries, learn the cultural differences.)
A is for animation. Show you are interested in your subject with your energy and animation. Be enthusiastic. Animate your voice by speeding up and slowing down, talking louder and softer at times. Make your face animated. A is also for attitude. Make sure you feel good about yourself and what you are doing.
K is for kinetics or motion. Use your hands and arms to make gestures that support your words. Use two-handed, symmetrical gestures, and hold your hands high when gesturing at about the chest level.
Remember S.P.E.A.K. and you will boost your credibility in conversations and presentations. You will be much more persuasive, and people will respond more favorably to you and your ideas.
Jack Pyle, president and janitor of Face-to-Face Matters, Lansing, Michigan, USA, is a communication consultant and provides leadership communication training to corporate, government and nonprofit managers. He speaks frequently at state, national and international conferences.