My good friend Catherine wrote me in response to the October 31 blog post, Sending signals. Catherine pointed out that, right when she was getting intrigued by what I was saying in the post, the writing kind of petered out. “What am I supposed to do with this information? How do I apply it to my life?”
Yes! What’s the “so what,” as I ask my clients. A big thank you to Catherine for nudging me to go deeper. You can read the rest of the post here, but I’m going to build off of the last part, quoted below:
In order to navigate the world safely, we look for signs about what’s expected, how to behave, where to go. When we’re the ones in charge, it’s up to us to provide those signs and signals. And, crucially, it’s important to remember that we are sending signals even when we haven’t chosen them.
Let’s say you’re giving a presentation. The audience is looking for guidance as to what this experience with you will bring. Can they trust you to lead them through this? What signals support their conclusion?
Start on time.
Don’t start speaking before the room has settled.
Make intentional, not sweeping, eye contact .
Speak at a natural pace; don’t rush or slow way down.
Be willing to pause for a moment in order to let your point sink in.
All these signals combine to let the audience know that you’re in charge of the room. When they feel they can trust you, they relax and listen to what you have to say.
On the other hand, if you send signals that suggest you don’t want to be there, it’s impossible for the audience to relax. We’re already worried that you’re going to waste our time. The “I don’t want to be here” signals are the opposite of the first list. They demonstrate that your intention is to get this over with—speaking quickly, starting to talk while you’re still walking up to the front of the room, shuffling through notes and papers, keeping your eyes down. These say “I don’t want to be here.”
And if you don’t want to be here, why should we? Choose your signals wisely.