Actions speak louder than words. We are often asked to consider this maxim when what we are DOING is not in line with what we are SAYING. It’s true, your behavior can support or completely undermine the message that your words are conveying. In fact, the tone in which you say something or the vibe you are giving off can often confuse your communication. Getting a handle on this fact can positively impact all your relationships, whether it is with your boss, your team or your loved ones.
Doing and Saying: When a speaker paces or gestures constantly it can feel frantic and distracting. On the other hand, a well-placed gesture or smile can underscore a message. Constant movement may completely sabotage the intended impact of your message. The best advice is to keep your hands and feet still, until the words or emotion call for a gesture or other physical movement to emphasize a point. This is true whether you are in meetings, delivering formal speeches, having a one on one conversation, or if you are seated or standing.
Tone: To match tone with your intended impact takes a great deal of consciousness. Every one of us has had the experience in which the way you said something does not come out the way you meant it. People laugh when you were serious or take offense when you were trying to be funny. Know that this misalignment can typically be fixed. Ensuring that you are clear on the “spirit” and purpose of the message ahead of time can keep these issues at a minimum.
Energy: You can have this same influence over your message by the energy or space you create while speaking. According to research done by the HeartMath Institute and others, there is an “electromagnetic or energetic communication system” that actively influences the way our communication is received. If this is the case, what does it mean in terms of how we think about sending the “right” message? We have all experienced a situation where someone is talking about being “fine”, but you sense the exact opposite emotion. If you want to be a better communicator, consider these recommendations:
- When engaging in any conversation, do a quick check on your emotional state. If you expect this to be a tough conversation and you are feeling angry, you could do a couple of things.
- Reschedule the conversation and take time to consider your emotional “energy” as well as your words.
- Take a deep breath.
- If it is an urgent conversation, you might say, “I am feeling pretty mad right now, but we need to talk about this. I will try not to take it out on you.”
- When communicating, think about not just the words, but the tone in which they are delivered and the emotion behind the words. Add body language to support your message.
- It is said that practice makes perfect. If you struggle with aligning your messaging (and who doesn’t at least some of the time), get feedback from those with whom you communicate often (and whom you trust). Join a club like Toastmasters International where you can practice both planned and spontaneous messaging and get constructive feedback in the moment.
- Forgive yourself when you communicate the wrong information, hurt someone with your words or are not true to your plan or values. We may not be able to take back our words, but we can always keep learning how to better align our doing, saying, tone and energy to make the impact we desire.
So, think before you speak to align your thoughts, physical expressions and words to deliver the most effective communication.