You have a wealth of knowledge, experience, and insight. If you share these things in a positive manner, your clients will be more loyal, prospective clients will be more likely to do business with you, and your colleagues and co-workers will respect you and enjoy working with and learning from you. But, if you share what you know in the wrong way, these same people may think you’re arrogant or condescending. Some of us unknowingly alienate people because we are in a hurry, prefer to keep our knowledge to ourselves, or are so focused on demonstrating our knowledge that we do so in a way that gives people the impression that we think we are superior.
When you communicate your knowledge, experience, and expertise with people, you have an opportunity to impress and endear them to you. How you are perceived by people when answering questions and sharing your expertise hinges on the following three key aspects of your communication style:
- Word Choice – It is no wonder that most people are afraid to ask questions for fear that they will look stupid, be ridiculed or otherwise be embarrassed. Yet most of us don’t make a conscious effort NOT to make people feel that way. You can stand out from the crowd and endear people to you by simply injecting certain words into your answers and explanations and eliminating others.
Words and phrases to avoid:
- “Obviously” (Especially when said with an air of superiority)
- “Of Course” (When said as if what has been shared is common knowledge that everyone should already know)
- “It’s really not that hard to understand” (When said in a frustrated voice and possibly injecting some head shaking action)
- “What do you mean?” (When said with slanted eyebrows and a perplexed look that says to the other person, “You are not formulating a logical question”)
Words to use:
- “That’s a great question”
- “I’m glad you asked”
- “Good point, let me elaborate on that for you”
- Tone of Voice – As you can tell by the notes in parenthesis for the words and phrases to use and avoid, tone of voice makes a world of difference in how you are perceived. It is for this reason that this aspect of your communication style makes the biggest impact on whether or not people perceive you as being knowledgeable and genuinely interested in sharing your knowledge or as knowledgeable and more concerned about moving on with your life or being seen as “smarter” or otherwise superior. You can improve your ability to build trust, understanding and rapport with others by consciously choosing to use a tone of voice that demonstrates:
- Genuine concern for the education of others
- Willingness to see things from other points of view
- Willingness to reflect on how it felt before you knew what you know now
- Gratitude for the opportunity to share your knowledge with others
Most of us communicate on a daily basis without paying much attention to our tone of voice. We may use a “default” voice and sound sad, rushed, or upset even when we are none of these. You can increase your chances of making a positive imprint on people by making conscious decisions about your tone of voice. You can begin by practicing using different tones of voice to relay the same information. Start by practicing in your car on your way to and from work. You can even record yourself and listen to the playback. This can be an invaluable tool as most of us don’t realize how we sound to others. Then, you can start practicing with real people and pay close attention to how they respond to various tones. As you do, you will become more masterful at encouraging, educating and supporting people.
- Body Language – In addition to your tone of voice, your body language speaks volumes about your true thoughts and intentions. It is almost more important than the actual words that you use, and it can definitely detract from the impact you intend your words to have. Here are some tips for using your body language to make a positive impression:
Behaviors to Avoid:
- Looking at the clock, your watch, or your phone
- Multitasking (checking e-mail or organizing your files while you talk)
Crossing your arms
- Rolling your eyes or making faces that indicate irritation with what the other person is saying or asking
Behaviors to Adopt:
- Consistent eye contact
- Relaxed posture
- Facing your body towards the other person
- Nodding your head to indicate understanding and that you’re following along
The most successful people in the world know how to communicate with others and make them feel like a million bucks! Most of them communicate in a way that makes it look easy, but it is anything but! It takes practice, awareness, patience, and most importantly a genuine interest in seeing others improve and grow. You can use these communication strategies during client interactions, networking events, company meetings, performance reviews and training sessions, whether in a group setting or one on one.
When you achieve communication mastery in all three of these areas, you will be amazed at how people respond to you and how grateful they are to you for sharing your time, energy, and knowledge with them. When positive and engaging body language, tone of voice and word choice all come together, you are bound to make a lasting positive impression. Which area will you focus on first to enhance your communication? I suggest that you start with the one that comes hardest to you. Challenge yourself. Let me know which area challenges you the most, keep me posted on your progress, and let me know if there is anything I can do to support you in your quest to make a difference for your clients, prospects, and colleagues!
This blog from March 2012 was updated and posted today because of its relevance to our many readers.