"All the raw ingredients of communication (words, body language, emotion, logic, action, inaction, listening, branding, perception, structure, and so forth) produce change – either positive or negative."
The irony of struggling to find a suitably engaging opening line for this summary on Dianna Booher’s book What More Can I Say? is not lost on me! Indeed, it is one of the reasons I picked up her book in the first place – a desire to add some additional techniques to my communication toolkit so I can be more effective in both my business and personal conversations.
The book is organized according to nine core principles of persuasive communication – presented as ‘laws’ – and offers concrete suggestions for overcoming common communication gaffes so you can achieve the positive outcomes you desire. I particularly liked the nuggets of wisdom contained in the Laws of Simplicity vs. Complexity, Distinction vs. Dilution and Emotion vs. Logic.
The Presenter’s Paradox
"When making an offer, communicators intuitively think more is better. They consider each item as a single add-on component, increasing the value of the whole offer or message…But listeners don’t look at the situation in the same way. Instead they ‘average’ all the pieces of information they hear and walk away with a single impression."
The Presenter’s Paradox was a big lightbulb moment for me. Research has shown that we perceive situations, value and penalties quite differently – depending on whether we’re communicating them or hearing them. When Booher illustrated this paradox for me using several different scenarios and examples, I immediately realized I often fall victim to the ‘more is better’ mentality when I am the communicator yet prefer the ‘less is better’ approach when I’m on the receiving end of similar information.
Once you are consciously aware of the paradox, it is easy to spot. Spend a mere 10 minutes on The Shopping Channel and you will instantly see, hear and feel the lunacy of the over-sell! And yet, it is surprisingly easy to forget the needs of the listener when we are in ‘presenter’ mode. It is human nature to want to impress our audience with every feature and advantage associated with our brilliant idea or service, not recognizing that we are inadvertently undermining ourselves. The Presenter’s Paradox warns us that more is not better; more can actually be harmful!
Now that you are aware of this counterintuitive principle, how can you use this knowledge to your advantage? My two Insights have been selected to help you do just that!
Add by Subtracting (Less = More)
"Over-choice paralyzes people. While they initially feel motivated by the thought of extensive personal choice, having fewer options makes it easier for people to decide, buy or do something."
Yes, we all love the idea of choice until we are overwhelmed by a tsunami of options: 100 cable TV channels, 50 flavours of ice cream, 10 page dinner menus, 35 shades of green paint. Who hasn’t stood in line in a stupor of indecision vacillating between several equally attractive yet slightly different possibilities? It takes time and mental energy to process all those alternatives and feel we are making the ‘right’ decision. We can be far more decisive when there are a limited number of well-articulated and distinct choices.
Astute communicators seeking to persuade or influence the decisions of others work hard at giving them a well-curated short-list of key benefits; ones that are truly value-added and meaningful. They focus on the one, two or three ‘must have’ pieces of information to facilitate positive decision-making and buy-in and resist the urge to sweeten the deal with low value ‘bonuses’.
So, the next time you need to pitch an idea, apply for a job, or launch a new marketing campaign, remember to put yourself in the shoes of the listener/receiver. Employ the less is more approach by subtracting low-value extras so that your primary selling points add impact and produce your desired outcome.
Plug In to Power On
"You can’t persuade people to change their minds or their actions if you don’t know what they’re thinking or doing."
We’ve all heard the adage “Knowledge is Power” and yet in our haste to push our messages out, we often fail to gather the information we need to ensure those messages resonate with our intended audiences. Booher notes there is a big difference in the way successful negotiators and unsuccessful persuaders prepare for and participate in conversations. Essentially it boils down to asking a lot of questions and listening deeply to the answers so you can truly understand where the other person is coming from. The more you know about your customers, your supervisor, and your significant other, the greater your chances of framing your message in a way that will shift their opinions or behaviours in your favour.
Strategies you can use to become a more influential communicator include:
- Asking probing questions to understand the other person’s goals, needs, concerns, and resistance
- Listening for areas of agreement and alignment (not areas of disagreement)
- Using expressive body language (eye contact, facial expressions, open body posture)
- Listening to the complete thought or point being made and then asking questions to clarify instead of interrupting and jumping to conclusions
As Booher reminds us, Listening and connecting provide the only way to close the gap between perception and reality. Effective communicators do their homework to ensure they understand the intellectual, emotional and behavioural needs and biases of the group they want to influence. Then they use that knowledge to shape their message and create a win-win outcome for all.
What More Can I Say? packs a lot of wisdom and practical examples into its 146 pages. The tone is conversational and the information easy to digest. If you want to refine your communication skills and become more effective in motivating others to take action, buy your product or service, or offer you your dream job, this book will greatly improve your chances of success.
If you were going to write a book on how to be a more effective communicator, what would your top communication tips or laws be?