Sometimes the BEST Communication Technique is NO Technique At All!
Posted Sep 20 2010 12:00am
When I teach my students and coaching clients about the use of persuasive communication to make connections, build relationships and make the world a better place, I occasionally hear that it’s just too much. Too much to learn, too much to remember, too much to organize into a productive result.
Yet it seems to me that there is already too much failure to communicate in the world, and not enough people playing their part and moving us forward. I think it’s a mistake to assume that you even have to remember the skills I teach. The trick is to learn and practice when there’s no immediate demand, and then let go and let yourself learn by doing.
I want to illustrate this idea by sharing with you an experience I had many years ago.
Our story begins many years ago, when my wife and teenage daughter accompanied me to a meeting of the International Platform Association in Washington D.C.
The conference was fabulous. Ross Perot was a dinner speaker, and Colin Powell a speaker after lunch. There was a guy who looked and sounded like Teddy Roosevelt who spoke to us, and another who looked and sounded like Ben Franklin. We heard a diverse group of presenters on a wide array of topics, and a good time was had by all. On the last day, there was a contest for those in attendance who wanted to participate. The contest was a competition. In each round, you would give a one-minute speech in front of the whole conference audience. They would then, through a process of elimination, select a winner.
I thought it would be a lot of fun to do this with my daughter. She was a teenager at the time, she was on her high school debate team, and she had long had an interest in her dad’s career. And I thought it would be fun to compete with her too, because even though she wasn’t nearly as good as me, I thought she was pretty good and that it would be a real boost to her self esteem to compete against a pro!
So we signed up for the contest, and were divided into groups. One group at a time was taken to another room and instructed on how to speak and on what we would be judged. They told us what to do with our hands. They told us how to stand. They talked about what words to emphasize and how to emphasize them. They gave us a lot of input about speaking, and then sent us on stage, one at a time.
I had already been speaking professionally for a number of years at that point. I had my own style. I had my own way with words. I had confidence and strong material. But when they told us what the judges were looking for, I set aside everything I knew about speaking, and tried to do it their way. The result? I was eliminated in the first round! My daughter kept right on going. She beat me. Don’t pity me. I’m okay with it. Mostly. But I learned a valuable lesson that day, and I want you to gain the benefit of my experience. Here’s what I learned.
The most powerful persuasion comes from people who are natural and authentic. If you know something about persuasion that works for you, hey, trust that and do what you know to do! Fair enough?