Imagine you are faced with an intense negotiation. It could be with your significant other over where to go on vacation, your teenage child over their choice of friends. Or at work dealing with uncooperative people, maybe a tense situation that involves being the recipient of the difficult boss’s unfettered anger. Now, envision keeping your cool and smooth sailing through the situation, getting what you want without strain or effort.
The person who displays charisma, presence, and poise is also the one who rapidly rises through the ranks of organizations and society itself. The solver of major problems instead of the creator of them. The one who defuses and de-escalates emotionally charged environments and swiftly brings peace to the storm. People Whisperers are not born, they are developed—it is a matter of knowledge, skills, abilities, and awareness.
What are you saying before you say anything?
“Communication is 7% Verbal, 38% Vocal and 55% Visual…this and other equations regarding relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages were derived from experiments dealing with communications of feelings and attitudes.” — Albert Mehrabian, Ph.D.
As a People Whisperer, Mehrabian’s Rule about communication being 7% verbal, 38% tone of voice, and 55% visual (body language, gestures, facial expressions, posture, presence, the clothes and colors you wear) is vital. For us, the rule is about being congruent with our own messaging. If you truly want to persuade and influence others, you must focus on your body language and non-verbals.
Reading body language is an opinion at best and trying to decipher someone else’s non-verbal messaging is an exercise in assumption. As in, I’m placing my TRUTH and my perception ahead of the facts. However, all those we come in contact with will perceive your body language and non-verbals and place their TRUTH ahead of the facts.
The research of Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov reveal that a first impression is formed in one-tenth of one second. When you walk into a room, people form their opinion (TRUTH) about you instantly, and they anchor everything that comes after based on that truth. It’s called the Law of Primacy, we remember and anchor our attitudes and actions based on what we perceive first.
When we string together the 7/38/55 Rule with the Law of Primacy and the findings on first impressions, the question on the table is, “What are you saying before you say anything?”
How you are dressed, the clothes and colors you wear, speak loudly before you ever open your mouth. Your posture, gestures, how you carry yourself (presence) and grooming, all set a tone of any interpersonal interaction. What tone are you setting? Are you helping yourself or hurting yourself with your visual image?
Have you ever been pulled over for speeding? What if the officer that stopped you was 300 pounds, waddled up to your window, uninformed wrinkled and donut crumbs on his shirt? What is that officer saying before he says anything?
Now imagine it was a state trooper that pulled you over. The sun reflecting off his spit-shined boot blinds you in your review mirror as he steps out of his car. He smartly places his Smokey the Bear hat squarely on his high and tight haircut. He marches to your vehicle with precision and confidence. His uniform pressed with military creases and is immaculately tucked and cleaned. What is that officer saying before he says anything?
What are you saying before you say anything?
Ask five friends or acquaintances to share their first impression of you. Buckle up and remain neutral in expression and posture during the answer, and then follow-up with, “How do you mean?” Take note of what you were saying to them before you ever opened your mouth to speak.
Remember, perception becomes a reality. How others perceive you, in their mind that becomes a reality. People Whisperers know this and craft how others perceive them very carefully and with a specific, calculated target in mind.
What’s the target?
The target of every communication should be to:
- be understood,
- be received, and
- to be acted upon.
Your visual presentation sets the stage of whether another person will even give you their attention.
When you present yourself in a way that gives others reasons to judge, dismiss, be turned off, repulsed or disgusted, you won’t even get the chance to be understood, let alone acted upon because you aren’t received. If others don’t immediately perceive you as credible, professional, and confident, you hurt your ability to have influence.
It’s not impossible to overcome negative first impressions, and less than stellar primacy and anchoring, but you will struggle and strain and most likely fail in your attempt to sail smoothly through the rough waters of life.
DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation in writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.
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