Communicate to Influence

Summary Written by Karina Mikhli
"Business communication sucks, but there is hope. It doesn’t have to be this way. And it can’t. Circumstances and our audience demand that it change. The need for great communication has never been more urgent."

- Communicate to Influence, page 5

The Big Idea

Inspiration Leads to Influence

"To create an ideal communication experience for the audience, we must be both intentional about our message (it must be audience-centered) and intentional about the way we communicate that message (with high emotional connection). This is the place from which we motivate, shift culture, change minds, and win supporters."- Communicate to Influence, page 61

As per Ben and Kelly, the upper-right quadrant—inspire—is where we should be aiming most of our communication. And this requires both audience-centered content, making it about them and their point of view, and high emotional content. It is emotion that allows us to connect to our audience and that inspires them (pun intended) to trust what we have to say.

Since there are so many myths about good communication, they start off with some “reality checks”–

  1. Ditch the script and make sure your message is about you and comes through;
  2. Always be authentic—audiences want to see and hear the real you to determine if they can trust you;
  3. You’re always communicating so prepare for more than just the “big talks”;
  4. Good communication requires self-awareness, so get honest feedback (e.g., watch a video recording of your speech).

Insight #1

Inspire Trust with Consistency

"This means that when people listen to you speak, they are deciding whether or not to trust you, whether or not they like you, and whether or not they believe you. If there is congruence and agreement among the verbal, vocal, and visual content of your communication, your listeners will be more likely to trust you, like you, and believe what you say."- Communicate to Influence, page 82

Ben and Kelly share with us “behaviors of trust,” techniques to help earn your audience’s trust:

  1. Make the connection with eye contact;
  2. Keep them tuned in with energy via appropriate—
    a) Posture and movement;
    b) Gestures and facial expressions;
    c) Voice and vocal variety;
  3. Boost your credibility with effective pausing.

Further details on the above include how long to hold eye contact depending on how large your audience is, the recommended posture to take, and the many advantages of pausing.

You also have to take into account the power of visual. If the 3 V’s of communication (verbal, vocal, and visual) are not consistent, your audience will believe what they see and not what they hear. The power of the visual is so strong that your words will be totally forgotten if they’re in any way inconsistent with what your audience sees!

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Insight #2

Connect Emotionally with SHARPs

"People crave emotional experiences. Logic makes us think, but a well-told story makes us feel—and emotions prompt us to action…. That’s how we inspire. To really cut to the emotional core of your listeners, you have to get to their memories."- Communicate to Influence, page 117

SHARPs—a clever acronym for Stories, Humor, Analogies, References, and Pictures and visuals—is how to truly connect with your audience and to influence them to change or act. Although you don’t have to use all of them in one speech, any one of them will get beyond your audience’s information overload and distractions. As Ben and Kelly explain, SHARPs reach us on an emotional level, which engages our memories and helps your audience remember what you’ve said—instead of everything else vying for their attention.

Below are some tips on how to make the “S” part of SHARPs—the stories—most effective:

  • Begin with the end in mind;
  • Make them care;
  • Make the audience work for its meal;
  • Make it personal.

Regardless of our industry, title, or aspirations, we all communicate every day, several times a day. And even if we are not in the business of “selling,” we often have to influence others with our communication. Whether our audience is the boss we’d like to get a raise from, our peers that we’re trying to convince to support our latest business case, or our child whom we’d like to get to bed without a fight, it all requires effective and influential communication. Ben and Kelly give us a literal communication roadmap, tips and tricks, and plenty of their own SHARPs to help us inspire with our words.

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Ben Decker

The leading business communications expert, Ben Decker bridges the gap between executive leaders and their teams. As CEO of Decker Communications, Inc., he has worked with hundreds of leaders in Fortune 500 companies to create and implement communications solutions that are practical, direct, and attainable.

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