The Winning Voice

Best in class communication techniques from Michael Kelly

‘Own’ your communication skills

‘A good conversation is elegantly connected with listening’.

This quote is from the article Ten ways to improve your communication skills by Melanie Pinola.

As this is Week #2 (Practical techniques) of the theme ‘Be green and growing’ – the ‘Ten ways’ article will give you plentiful ideas and techniques to reflect on and grow your communication. The ways are focused on everyday communication, but are easily adapted to executive communication.

Below is a list of ‘Ways’ #9 to #1.

Let me comment on Way #10

#10 Watch your body language.

Body language is a vast topic. Rather than the suggestion to ‘Watch your body language’ – a more effective mantra is: ‘Project energy with your body.

Energy is 70% of a job, if you don’t have it be nice. Projecting energy will well serve you in most ‘conversations’ you have.

The key elements of projecting energy with your body are:

  • Standing and sitting tall. Think of lengthening your neck and extending the top of your head to the ceiling/the sky. No matter how tall you are, use all the height that you have.
  • Making an immediate physical connection with a person by simultaneously; fully facing the person, holding eye contact (noting the colour of the person’s eyes will help you with this) and smiling.
  • Have a firm (but not crushing) palm to palm handshake, with a couple of pumps, while holding eye contact. Release the shake in a smooth, un-rushed manner. For men shaking hands with women – lessen the firmness a notch.
  • Having arms that are open (ie. uncrossed).
  • When standing, letting your arms and hands hang in a relaxed manner at the side of your body. Initially this will feel awkward, so practice first in safe conversations.
  • When seated, sit with your backside feeling the back of the chair. Rest your relaxed arms and hands on the table with arms spread 30 cm from either side of your torso.
  • No movement from nervousness. Move on purpose.

Included in this ‘Way’ there is a link ‘Think of your toes’ to an article ‘Instantly become charismatic by thinking of your toes’.  My view is this claim – made by Olivia Fox Cabane – is suspect. The technique may make Ms. Cabane more charismatic, but my field trialling has not found this result.

Many of you will know of Amy Cuddy’s Power Pose technique – Your body language shapes who you are. Over the past three years I’ve practiced the technique and have felt more confident after doing it. My clients report similar results. One caveat on Cuddy’s research, is that other researchers haven’t been able to replicate her results.

A study that supports Cuddy’s premise is Li Huang and Adam Galinksy’s article How you can become more powerful by literally standing tall.   Huang and Galinzky posit that standing and sitting tall, will make you braver.

I concur with Eric Ravenscraft’s views (click ‘Read more’) on reading body language. Ravenscroft makes several telling points. I’ve recently read Joe Navarro’s book What every body is saying, and he has some fresh insight into reading deception through body language.

My overall suggestion on reading body language is this: Pay attention with your eyes. Reflect on the meaning, of what you see.

Here is 60 second, simple yet powerful, body language video demonstration Module from my Confident Personal Communication programme. The password is ‘RSD7’ 

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#9 Get rid of unnecessary conversation fillers. #8 Have a script for small talk and other occasions. #7 Tell a story #6 Ask questions and repeat the other person. #5 Put away distractions. #4 Tailor the message to the audience. #3 Be brief but specific #2 Up your empathy. #1 Listen, Really listen.


Own the Conversation

As there is much information in this post and in the ‘Ten ways’ article, choose just one idea or technique to IDP (Intentionally Daily Practice) over the next seven days. Reflect on the the results of that practice.


p.s. This Australian Financial Review article Measured manner a winning way, contains my ideas on the speaking and body language of B. Obama. Included in the article is superb advice on body language and body movement from the Roman orator, Cicero.

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