Wednesday, September 15th, 2010
Words vs. Tone: Candidates Must Balance the Two
Wherever you are in the country, there was probably an election for some office yesterday. Here in Washington, DC, incumbant mayor Adrian Fenty lost to City Council Chairman, Vincent Gray. The news is nothing shocking, people win and lose elections all of the time. What stands out in this election is the front page of today’s Washington Post. Where the caption under the photo reads, “Despite spending nearly $5 Million on his reelection and pleading for forgiveness for his “mistakes,” the returns indicated that Adrian M. Fenty could not turn around an election that became a referendum on his personality and overbearing style.”
This painful lesson was a fantastic reminder to all who have to communicate as a part of their jobs: politicians, executives, sales people, middle-managers, recent graduates looking for their first opportunity, that 93% of your impact is based on your voice tone and body language. Your words, are only 7%. So you may have great ideas, or even mediocre ones…but if you have an abrasive personality and overbearing attitude, your audience (be it an audience of 1 or 1 million) won’t care about anything you say.
Few can argue against improving education beyond its current status. However, it’s easy to get turned off by forceful delivery, an appearance of not being open to countering ideas, and a lack of listening skills. These are all areas where Mayor Fenty acknowledged were his shortcomings in his television ads and interviews. If Washingtonians thought back to the blizzards earlier this year, they would recall the defensive tone he had while answering questions about trash removal, plowing, and when the city would be back to normal. In fact, he even went on the attack against the interviewer as if to imply, “who are you to challenge me?”
Take GOP Candidate, Phil Davison’s campaign speech.
He fluctuated between sounding angry and crazy, that it was too difficult to focus on what he was actually saying. He kept wandering away from the lectern, but hadn’t practiced enough to remember more than five or six words at a time, so he appeared to be frantically wandering back and forth, and not under control. He, too, was defeated in his primary election a while back, and no one was surprised based on this performance.
Attitude and tone in a media interview, job interview, business meeting, campaign speech, or general presentation can make or break your success. Remember to maximize your 93%, make sure what you say matches how you say it, and remember that the ears listening are connected to a living, breathing, feeling person. If you don’t think about their possible response in advance of stating your message, you’ll never connect and gain their respect or trust to the degree that you would like. My workshops help speakers of all kinds, understand and manage their message and delivery for optimum success. I can help you too!
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