There was this woman I used to work with a number of years ago. She was a gregarious, bubbly lady. Large as life, heart of gold, mad as a box of frogs. She would do anything for anyone, most supportive people leader in the business at that time but boy, when it came to communicating with her it was painful. Why? Because she would say 27 million words when 6 would do. During a conversation my head would metaphorically roll off the back of my shoulders (Do you remember the 1990 Reach Toothbrush classic “Flip Top Head” TV Commercial – that’s the image that springs to mind.. YouTube it!)
My point here is this. Many women I work with, and even interact with or observe on a daily basis, suffer from a condition I call ‘waffleitis’. The inability to be succinct, specific, to the point. Waffleitis is a condition that causes you to ‘go round the houses’ so to speak, fill the awkward silences with blether, use lots of filler words or fancy language and repeat yourself over again. Is that you?
I LOVE helping women to move from Waffleitis to Well Said. The reason – because it makes such a positive difference to women’s sense of self-worth, confidence and capability (not to mention pay packet!). Waffling does nothing for your credibility or influence. It basically crushes it. People switch off. They zone out. They don’t hear (let alone listen) to what you’re saying. They get bored. They don’t see how what you’re saying benefits them. The result – no voice at the table, zero influence on decisions, lack of opportunity to progress, lower performance appraisal & bonus. Even in a personal sense at home and with friends, these same challenges apply – kids don’t do what you ask them to do, partner never listens to you, friends talk over you.
I’m guessing I’ve resonated with many women out there on this one. This is the low grade cr*p that you’ve been tolerating for years as its been grinding away at you slowly. A few sighs here, feeling a bit deflated there, resentment for others who are getting it right, tears in the car on the way home, flopping onto the sofa in the evening with a bottle of wine to drown it out…..
Ok so enough of that. It’s time to take action and I am here to help you do it. There is so much you can do to change this situation but today I’m going to focus on just 5 practical tips that will guarantee you get heard and land your message with impact.
- Let’s go old school. There’s no point in reinventing the wheel here. In this technological age we’ve lost the art of human communication. I want you to think back to Mehrabian’s communication theory – the pie chart on Words (7%), Tone (38%) & Body Language (55%). This theory is all about how we communicate meaning with our message, the feelings and attitudes around things I.e. like or dislike. It’s important to have congruence through these 3 elements in your message and do your best to take advantage of all of them. I see many people saying a lot of words but have nothing in terms of the paralinguistics (they way that it’s delivered) or the facial expression. For example, If you’re excited about something, show it. You’ve seen the guy right who says “I’m really excited” with no energy, monotone voice and a face like a wet weekend right? Don’t be that guy/gal!
- Practice 6 word stories. This helps you to be more succinct. So, tell the story of Cinderella in just 6 words. My example – glass, slipper, ball, get’s, her, man. Try it with other well known stories to get you in the groove of it, then turn it to your work/business messages. If you’re going into a meeting and you have a slot on the agenda, write down the message you want to land in just 6 words before hand. Then, build it into 12 words, after that maybe 18. Do you best to stick as closely as you can to this and when you’ve said it. Zip it (or end it with a question).
- Dig out those dusty old personality/behavioural profiling test results you’ve got. Whether it’s Myers Briggs, Insights, SDI etc, it really doesn’t matter. Most people have had one of these done in the past but I seldom see people using it and practising it in everyday life. Figure out what other people’s preferences are, you don’t need a test to do it, just watch their behavioural signals and clues, and then adapt your communication style to theirs. It really is like speaking a different language – you may as well be French and they’re German! You won’t be heard or have influence if you’re harping on about employee engagement to the CFO when you’re the HRBP, quite frankly, he or she is unlikely to give a monkey’s whether everyone is feeling good in their work. You got to talk to that person in their currency…. which is likely to be cold, hard, cash, or at least some bottom line, tangible result. And that is still absolutely possible to land your message about the importance of employee engagement, you just need to do your homework to be able to clearly demonstrate the tangible impact it has on the business.
- Slow down. A simple one but highly effective. Waffleitis makes us speed up in speech which, combined with lots of words is what results in verbal diarrhoea. Not a great strategy. So, very deliberately, slow your speech down and remember to powerfully pause when you land a particular pertinent message (a bit uncomfortable I know at first but practice makes peachy. I use a little visualisation strategy for this. I imagine the uncomfortableness as a ball in my hands and I picture myself handing that ball to the other person in that moment)
- Last but not least – start with the end in mind. If you want to have someone, or a room of people hanging off your every word, then you’ve got to grab their attention from the word GO! I suggest starting with a ‘disturb’ – a fact, a statistic perhaps that is slightly alarming or really appealing. For example, if I’m meeting with the CFO again, and I’m presenting my budget request proposal, I might start with ‘£3.2 million’ – that’s the figure my proposal will deliver back to the business this financial year, would you like to hear how?.I don’t just sit down and commence death by powerpoint by talking through my proposal page by page.
These 5 tips should get you well on your way to landing your message with impact. And there is SO MUCH MORE!
If this is something that you’d benefit from investing in yourself and developing more, then put yourself on the waitlist for my autumn cohort of my 8 week group programme, Woman Up. Being on the waitlist means you’ll be first to hear all the details once released and also have access to the best offers and bonuses for signing up. You can get on that waitlist here >>> https://www.subscribepage.com/womanup