It’s What You Say AND How You Say It
I’ve always believed in that old cliché—“It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.” And there really is SOME truth to it.
I suppose it mostly refers to your tone of voice and general attitude in how you express yourself. If you feel enthusiastic, it will come through in your voice. In a bad mood? We can figure that out, too.
So, I was recently trying to solve a problem. My 11-month-old twin girls decided together one day to refuse to eat from the spoon that I was using to feed them. Overnight, they decided that they only wanted to eat using their hands. Asking my mother’s advice, she went all alarmist on me and told me that if I missed the “window of opportunity” for them to eat with a spoon I would be sorry and have wolf children that ate with their hands for the rest of their lives.
I started to panic. I had to get them eating with the spoon. I knew that they lacked the manual dexterity to feed themselves, but decided to give it a try. Guess what? HUGE MESS.
So I was asking my neighbor for her advice. She told me that she had a similar issue with her two daughters. She suggested, very calmly, that I give them a spoon to hold while feeding them with another spoon. It seemed that the act of holding the spoon would make them feel like they were feeding themselves, and it was a REVELATION.
Here is the thing: both women told me to hand a spoon to the girls, but they each had a slightly different way of expressing themselves, with different results.
So what the heck is my point, you ask? Give some serious thought to what you say AND how you say it. Make sure that your meaning and intention are clear. A good way to ensure that your point has been received is to check for acceptance. I know it may seem elementary, but it is worth it. Try, “So what I am saying is... Does that make sense to you?”
Conversely, you can use this “reflective” technique when you are the listener, too. I am a big fan of the phrase, ‘What I think I am hearing you say is... Is that right?” This will go a long way to making sure that you and your conversation partner are on the same page. This goes for co-workers, clients, prospects and in your personal life as well.
This is a confusing world. There is a lot of noise out there that distracts us from concentrating on the simplest task like talking to someone. We are glancing at cell phones, reading e-mail and listening to music all at the same time. We like to brag that we are multi-taskers. And we are. But slowing down and making sure that we understand someone else is one simple way to avoid confusion and keep things clear as a bell.