When teaching and coaching people on leadership and influence skills, we normally tell them that words have the lowest impact in face-to-face communication when influencing another person. Body language has the highest impact, and tone of voice is the next level of impact. Sayings like: “It’s not what you say it’s how you say it,” have common sense meaning to most people. It’s nice when research backs up common sense.
That’s not to say that the words don’t matter. Of course, they matter! It’s a complete message when I say something and it means the same thing to all people in a group. It’s congruence when my words, music (tone) and dance (body language) all have the same meaning.
A friend of mine has cancer. What happens when I say that she is battling cancer? Does that mean she can lose? How about if I say she is healing cancer? It changes how I feel inside about her. I decided after spending the day helping her yesterday – we got her an awesome wig – that I am now going to think and say that she is healing cancer. Just the word cancer causes a multitude of reactions, and healing versus battling is a tremendous shift.
Our internal emotions, assumptions, beliefs, and desires all get communicated. They leak. They leak through a look on our face, a tone in our voice, and in the words that we choose. In difficult situations where relationships are strained, there is a lot of unconscious and conscious leakage and many things are misconstrued.
Being conscious, present, and sincere, brings an authentic tone to even the most difficult of situations. Also, remember the saying “Choose your words carefully …”
Written by Sherri Malouf
President of Situation Management Systems, Inc.