By Kate Atkin
When was the last time you reviewed the impression you and your business make? Have you tried out a different influencing technique recently? Or are you doing what you have always done?
Doing what you have always done may be serving you well. If you would like a little more business, some fresh approaches to get your point across, or simply confirmation that what you are already doing works then read on…
It’s been said that it takes a matter of seconds to make a first impression and hours, days or even a lifetime to change that impression. The amount of time isn’t important, but the impression you make is. So how do you ensure your impression is the “right” one? I suggest you take some time to consider three key areas:
1. The words you use
2. The way you say those words
3. How you look when you are speaking
Beware of the wishy-washy impact of using neutral words… words such as try, hopefully, maybe. And also beware of using them when talking to yourself — oops did I just suggest that we talk to ourselves? Something definitely goes on inside my head, and I suspect it’s the same in yours too. Whether assessing how the day is going, how you are feeling or a new project or customer avoid words such as fine, ok, alright, so-so, and the terrible British phrase of “not too bad” when asked how you are.
So what do you say instead? Surely you can’t be positive all the time? There are times when you have to tell a customer that your delivery won’t be on time, or that the deadline is unrealistic. When expressing a negative, say why first. Giving your reasons first ensures the listener hears them, rather than them rising emotionally to your negative statement.
How you say something adds a great deal of weight to the message. Keep your voice congruent with your words. It is noticeable that often people tend to speed up when discussing fees and costs, perhaps giving an impression of hiding something, or being untrustworthy? Also saying you are delighted in a flat, calm voice doesn’t match. Put energy in your voice — breathe deeply to be able to do this. Emphasise key words and important messages.
How you look is also very important. Dress the part, smile and make eye contact. If you are in construction it is unlikely you will enter a site wearing a pin-striped suit and patent black leather shoes, if you are in a high-tech business jeans and t-shirts are often acceptable attire. Yet if you are in law, accountancy or other such professions smart business dress is expected.
Recently I watched a video of someone saying he was an entrepreneur at heart and drove himself and his team hard. The words were spoken in a very slow, calm manner, while the body language was laid back with a lack of eye contact with the camera. The mismatch meant I didn’t believe the statement.
The key is to be congruent.
Once you have decided on the impact you wish to make with your first, and subsequent, impressions what is the best way to present your information?
Often the facts and figures, data analysis and full reasoning are the areas focussed upon. Surely the logic will affect the outcome? It is necessary to have the back-up of the logical argument, yet, as Aristotle so wisely knew, logic (logos) alone will not suffice. There are two further areas, which if not present, mean that no amount of logic will persuade:
Ethos and Pathos.
No, I’m not referring to Greek islands; these are steps from the Art of Rhetoric that you ignore at your peril.
Ethos: credibility or character (of the speaker or business)
Pathos: emotional connection, empathy
Ethos is demonstrated by your reputation, how trustworthy others believe you to be and how authoritative you are. It’s important to note that your ethos is what the other person believes, not what you know to be true. Ethos can be built through time, experience, knowledge, and referrals — which is why referrals are a great source of business. Ethos is not a precise measure, it can’t be quantified in numbers in the same way your sales can. It’s more like your goodwill, there’s a value to be placed on it, but that value is hard to quantify. At a technology conference you are not likely to have as much ethos as Bill Gates, yet if you are an expert in your field you may have more than Joe Bloggs. Testimonials are one way to build your ethos and LinkedIn is a great tool to gain testimonials.
Pathos, the emotional connection, is where the key lies. Decisions are made not on what people know, but on how they feel about what they know. Logically you may know something is good for you (your five-a-day for instance), yet you still eat things that are bad for you (chips and chocolate?). As American psychologist William James wrote: “The emotions aren’t always immediately subject to reason, but they are always immediately subject to action.” By making an emotional connection and using questions to truly understand the other person, will help build your pathos.
Use Ethos, Pathos and Logos as a three step process, placing the logical argument at the end of your spiel and you will be a more effective influencer.
Influence: science and persuasion by Dr Robert Cialdini
Kate Atkin is an inspirational speaker and expert facilitator and author with extensive experience. She is supportive and motivating and delivers her talks with energy, drive, and passion. Kate works with a wide variety of organisations, teams and individuals to inspire change, instil self-belief and encourage confidence. A published author on the subjects of confidence and networking; her latest book The Confident Manager is receiving wide acclaim for its practical lessons and readable style. www.aspire-2.com
Watch a video of Brian Chernett, Founder of The Academy For Chief Executives, explaining how The Academy For Chief Executives inspires business leaders.
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