Friday, October 17, 2008

Politics and High Impact Communications

So, did anyone catch The Late Show last night?

Senator McCain made an appearance on the show after dissin’ Letterman about a month ago when he cancelled his first scheduled appearance.

McCain was good natured and humorous, stating, “I haven't had so much fun since my last interrogation,” when Letterman pressed him on several subjects.

What I found interesting was the Senator’s physical position.

As I viewed the show, I saw Letterman seated at his desk on the right hand side of the screen and Senator McCain seated in the guest chair on the left-hand side of the screen. And the good Senator from Arizona sat primarily on the extreme left-hand side of the chair.

Several times, Senator McCain shifted during the interview, and moved even further into the left-hand corner of the chair away from David Letterman.

So what does this mean?

Well, we don’t know.

We don’t know because no one asked.

This is something that we all have to be mindful of when we are in tough sales situations and we observe behaviors like this.

Our interpretation of these events is more of a statement about our perceptions, our mindset and our attitude, than it is about the actual events or behaviors of the other person.

It would be so easy to make the interpretation that the Senator was trying to “get away” from David Letterman, that he was “afraid” of Letterman, or that he wanted to “put some distance” between himself and Letterman. And I’m willing to bet that there are a few people out there who watched the program and made some of these conclusions.

Just as real, however, is the possibility that his right hamstring was feeling tight and he had to relieve the stress on that leg (been there, done that). Or perhaps he was feeling stress in his neck and had to angle his entire body to face his host.

And because Letterman never inquired, we won’t really know the Senator’s mindset that led to the observed behavior.

With that in mind, as sales people we need to be cognizant of what our clients are doing and subtly ask them, “What does that mean?” when they exhibit overt behavior that we don’t quite understand.

They are communicating with us. They just aren’t using words to do it.

On the flip side, recognize that there are people out there that will immediately jump to interpretation and assume that they know how you are thinking because of your body position and behavior. They won’t stop to be quite so analytical. They will simply interpret your behavior based around their own perceptions, prejudices, and experiences.

You need to be cognizant of how you are using you body to communicate your message to your audiences and clients. If you want to make a presentation with high impact, whether you are in an interview with a talk show host like Senator McCain or delivering a presentation in front of 20,000 people like Senator Obama, you want to be aware of your behavior and take as much control as possible over how your audience interprets your message.

That way, if you happen to find yourself sitting across from Letterman smooshed in one side of the chair, you can say to yourself, “You know, my right leg is feeling a lot better in this position. But I’ve put considerable distance between my host and me. How does this look to the audience I’m playing to? Do they think I'm trying to get away from him?”

So the next time you are in a sales meeting or you are being interviewed, remember that you are communicating, all of the time, even when you don’t use words. Take control of your body actions and take responsibility for the messages that you convey to your audience.

And be sure to ask clarifying questions about their behavior. If you don’t ask, then you will never know.

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