Words count. When you speak, people look at the whole package. What you say and how you say it counts: Do you project confidence and relay a compelling message? Even if a speaker stands tall, the words a speaker uses are even more important than posture.
CEOs in today's global economy have to learn adaptive communication methods to communicate with peers, employees, and the overall market. You have to own the room you walk into. This isn't about people liking you; it means they believe you and, therefore, your credibility rises.
According to a study of 11 global markets conducted by the Center for Talent Innovation, 62 percent of U.S. and U.K senior leaders see demonstrations of authority as credible. In emerging markets like Asia and South America, however, emotional intelligence builds credibility more than authoritativeness.
Words carry meaning. Do you think before you speak? To be understood, you must first have a purpose behind what you are saying.
Before you walk into a room, clarify the value you bring to the meeting or presentation. What is most important to you? Do you need to get their input or approval, or just inform them? Think through the context that will help to drive that conversation.
These three tips will help:
1. Commit to a point of view before you walk into the room.
You infer, derive, and conclude a point of view by reading, listening to, and discussing information. However, forming and articulating POV is a step that's often skipped.
I coached a CEO who was more people-oriented than results-driven. He wanted his leadership team to feel like part of the solution, so he'd ask for input and marinate on the ideas rather than sharing his own opinion and providing direction once he filtered down to his decision. His deference and need to be liked by others was in his way.
I told him, it's your job to make decisions and agitate innovative ideas. It's simple: Either your team is on your bus or they're not. If not, it's time to figure out how to convert them. If your messaging doesn't shift, they cannot take the business into the future with you because your purpose is too loose. What do you want them to do?
People who differentiate themselves with a POV get promoted because they have an opinion. Even if you ideate as you speak, your POV still distinguishes your message from "groupthink." Can you construct a compelling, concise point of view that gets listeners to engage? Are you willing to state your opinion even if it is uniquely different from others' input?
2. Know how to use the word "feel."
Next time a person says "I feel that ..." in a conversation, notice that no emotive words follow. It's a thinking statement, not an emotive statement. Too often, people use this phrase to elicit an emotional connection, which backfires as it's the head speaking, not the heart.
Try this instead: Combine emotive words with thinking statements to relate to the listener. For example, "I feel surprised and delighted that we have come this far, and I believe it is important that we continue on this path."
You have a greater chance of getting buy-in for your idea using emotive language when proving a point. "I feel worried," "I feel excited," "I feel surprised," or "this data confuses me" all work to relay your POV to the audience.
The same client mentioned above reactivated his language by adjusting the word "feel" in his vocabulary and taking stronger stances. He converted his team, and their market share soared.
3. Use "I" to differentiate your POV.
"I" is a strong word that differentiates you from the group. "I" draws a line in the sand that creates clarity on where you stand, which allows others to determine whether to push back, inquire further, or act. It creates movement either forward or backward.
In many Asian cultures, "I" is considered aggressive, so it is replaced with the polite "we." To many Western cultures, "we" confuses and irritates listeners. Who is "we"? Is it you and the mouse in your pocket, the team that reports to you, your clients, your kids ... who?
If you want your POV to be better understood, use "me" or "I" with action words like "can," "will," "will not," and "cannot," to achieve clarity. Stop playing nice with passive words like "try," "sort of," "kind of," "maybe," and "would/could/should" -- these words derail your POV with diluted and uncommitted messaging.
As Yoda said, "Do or do not. There is no try."
The secret to owning a room sits firmly in you knowing and pushing your purpose. Claim your point of view. Name it. Say it. Own it.