This past week has been tough on former Vice President Joe Biden. Several women have come forward to say they were uncomfortable with Biden’s touchy-feely ways such as hugs, forehead kisses and other instances when he invaded their personal space.
Biden’s response? That wasn’t my intent.
As I discussed in a previous FB live, your intent doesn’t matter.
How your message is received is what matters.
As George Bernard Shaw once said (or didn’t, who knows, but it’s a great quote), “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
In this case I’d say the biggest problem in communication is assuming other people understand your intent.
We tend to think that intent covers all manner of sins. Listen to kids play (and fight) and you’ll hear, “I didn’t mean to!” as if that makes whatever happen, ok.
Regardless of your intent, if the person you’re communicating with receives a different message, that’s on you.
Great communicators are constantly adjusting their message both in terms of content and delivery. By watching how people respond to your message, you can adjust accordingly. In my work I teach people how to read permission; the nonverbal indicator of receptivity.
And that’s exactly where Joe Biden went wrong. He assumed permission he didn’t have. This is often the case for people in power positions. Because those around them are afraid or intimidated, they don’t often clearly communicate their discomfort or fear. Which is why people in those positions must never assume permission and instead, play it safe.
This, by the way, has nothing to do with being politically “correct.” Regardless of the message or the context, if you want to succeed at communication, you’ll keep an eye on how your listener responds to your message instead of merely relying on your good “intentions.”
Years ago, I was working with a trial attorney in my office. After several attempts to get him to open up his body language, he still remained closed.
Frustrated, I finally blurted out, “Ok, what’s the story?”
And out tumbled a story about how he’s afraid he’ll say or do something that will turn the jurors against him and how this fear had been eating him alive.
When our communication is “off” there’s always a story behind it.
Body language starts in the brain. What we think gets communicated through our nonverbals.
This is dangerous.
Walk into the break room and see two people abruptly stop talking and you make up a story that they were talking about you.
See a juror frown and you make up a story that they don’t believe you and your version of events.
Your spouse is late coming home from work and you make up a story that they’ve been in an accident.
All of these stories have consequences because we communicate based on our stories.
Think your colleagues are talking behind your back? You’ll start avoiding them and acting strangely when they’re around.
Think a juror is against you during trial? You’ll start getting nervous about trying new things and play it safe.
Think your spouse has been in an accident? You’ll increase your stress and may lash out at your child.
It’s nearly impossible to stop making up stories because the brain is wired to make sense of our experiences. So instead, ask yourself, “Does this story serve me?”
If your story causes you stress, worry or anxiety, it doesn’t serve you. So ditch it. Tell yourself a new story.
Maybe your colleagues were sharing a personal story and were embarrassed if others heard.
Maybe the juror has a stomach ache.
Maybe your spouse got stopped by his or her boss on the way out of the office and didn’t have time to text you before getting in the car to drive home.
Are these stories true? It doesn’t matter. The point is, they serve you and your mindset. If you end up getting more information that gives you a clearer picture, great! Reframe your story. But until then, pick a story that serves you.
Here’s a podcast episode you might enjoy.
This is the first blog post of 2019, but not only that, the first blog post in your journey to Tap Into Your Power.
I am SOOOO excited to begin this journey with you.
A little backstory: I’ve been working with people just like you for over 15 years, helping them hone their communication so that they could nail their interview, hit their presentation out of the park, or up their game in court.
My specialty is in messaging and delivery: I help my clients figure out what to say and how to say it by tuning into who they really are and then helping them get their nonverbal communication to match.
But something was missing.
People loved the skills I was teaching, but they often found it difficult to get the skills to “stick.” How we communicate nonverbally is ingrained in us since our development from childhood to now; but the skills just weren’t enough to change how people were showing up in their lives. Yes, skills could be applied to job interviews and presentations, but in order to make real, lasting change, something had to shift.
Sari's passion is to help you TAP into your power from the inside, out. "Power Tools" provides real talk that gives you tools and reminders for tapping into your power instead of giving in to your excuses.