Sunday, August 30, 2009

Happy Birthdqy, Rachel and Monte IV

The Sage Bart Simpson once quipped,
"Aren't we forgetting the true meaning
of Christmas ... the birth of Santa?"

May you each continue discovering
why God loved you into existence.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rapport: Showing Up Like Them

A few years back I was sitting out in a hotel courtyard mentally preparing for a training I was about to facilitate. While I sat there being meditative and smoking a cigar, I noticed a man taking multiple trips to his car, loading the trunk with boxes, clothes and luggage. When he had finished, he came over, sat in a chair about 5 or 6 feet away from me, and lit a cigarette. Being the weirdo I am, I decided to engage in an experiment.

As he was slumped down in his chair, I did the same. Noting that he was breathing very deeply, drawing his breaths from the bottom of his feet, I began breathing in like manner. As cigarette smokers puff away faster than cigar smokers, I decided to only match his hand going to his mouth about every five times. I did all this for about 3 or 4 minutes. He then turned to me and said, “You feel like someone I can talk to,” and began telling me about how his favorite uncle and only living relative had just died. Experiment over. Serious discussion followed.

What happened here? Why did this man feel he could talk to me about his pain? I believe it has something to do with the reality that people like people who are like them.

You are walking into a room filled with military officers. They are dressed in pressed and smartly creased uniforms. They are standing at attention. You walk in wearing jeans and a sweatshirt and immediately slump down into a chair, asking, “What’s up, guys?”

What happens in such a scenario? Do you attain rapport with these people? Will there be a sense of connection between you? Will they believe that you understand them and their situation? Not hardly.

You are sitting across the desk of your manager. She is relaxed, sitting comfortably in her chair, with one arm on the desk and the other resting in her lap. You, however, are sitting in your chair as if a steel rod has been inserted where your backbone use to be. Both of your hands are placed on either knee. Your head is rigidly still and your skin is taught with the strain of “being serious.”

How will your manager be interpreting your demeanor as she is communicating with you? What do you think the chances are for you to establish a sense of connection with her?

Your audience is filled with highly educated people. They are here to listen to your presentation on a body of knowledge that they are interested in. You stand, you walk to the podium, and you open your lecture with, “Hey guys … what’s happenin’?”

What are the odds that these people will sense any degree of understanding as to who they are? What are the odds that your audience will be playing with iPhones, iPods, and Kindle’s while you make your presentation?

You are seeking to communicate to a potential client the value of what you have to offer. This client’s demeanor is Eeyore-like: she speaks low and moves slow. You, however, are shooting words at her in a high-pitched, rapid-fire fashion and gesticulating as if you were a Pentecostal preacher under the anointing.

Do you honestly think she is saying to herself: “Wow, this guy really gets me”?

Understanding that people are comfortable with people who are like them and applying it to how you stand, sit, gesture, breathe and use your voice and language go a long way toward maintaining rapport or breaking rapport. You don’t have to mirror the other person—in fact, if you do, he will probably think you are making fun of him! However, if the differences between your demeanors are extreme, the possibility of rapport is minimal.

As I have repeatedly noted, rapport is a process you want to monitor throughout your communication. However, the purpose of rapport is to achieve the goals of your communication. It is not enough for your audience to walk away saying to themselves, “Wow, I really felt connected to him.” If they don’t “buy” what you are “selling” – be it a product, a service or a body of knowledge – then you need to go back, re-establish rapport, and go for “YES.”

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rapport: Demonstrating Understanding

Building rapport is building an atmosphere of trust in which you can effectively communicate. People should feel comfortable around you: they should sense that you are someone with whom they can do business. This requires that you conduct yourself in a manner that will help them maintain this frame of mind.

The manner in which you choose to speak—respectfully, graciously, authoritatively, inquisitively, softly, loudly, quickly, slowly, deliberately, formally, informally, etc.—will go a long way toward creating the desired atmosphere.

The trick, of course, is to choose the most effective demeanor/tone in each context.

How you dress will speak volumes to those around you. Question: Do you know what your attire is communicating?

Your demeanor tells people how you regard them and yourself. Are you confident without being brash? Gracious yet not ingratiating? Does your audience see/feel/hear respect? This is huge for any communication strategy. If I don’t sense that you respect me as a person, if I believe that you are seeking to play God with my conscience, if I think that your kindness is a ploy rather than a genuine care for my best, it doesn’t matter what you say, I am not going to listen.

Do you have a command of your subject manner? Are you able to demonstrate a high degree of competency? Do you know the strengths and potential weaknesses of your arguments? Are you sufficiently aware of your competitor’s positions, products and plans for the future?

Your goal here is Demonstrating Understanding of your audience. After all, if they don’t get that you understand their needs, desires, values, beliefs, fears and such, whatever it is you have to say will be inconsequential.

Something else that helps you to demonstrate understanding is the questions you ask. What is it that they are specifically looking for when considering your product? What experiences are they seeking through the use of your product or the adoption of your ideas? For example, if they are buying your product because it provides security and you seek to sell them on the idea that your product shimmers with luxury, you probably will not make the sale. It doesn’t matter to them how luxurious your product is: this is not what they are looking for, and to seek to sell them luxury tells them you do not understand them.

When you seek to persuade a politician to change his or her stand on a particular position, do you know exactly what it is they believe their position is getting for them, as well as for their constituents? Once you ascertain this information, you can often easily and effectively show them how your position could attain the same things … only better, or for less money, or more justly for all concerned.

Of course, if you want, you can simply challenge their stand without understanding it, argue with them in a way that polarizes the situation, and then walk away without moving them even an inch toward your outcome. But, hey, you were right and they were wrong and you really showed them, didn’t you?

There is still another way of demonstrating understanding that goes a long way towards helping people feel comfortable around you … but I will get to that in the next post.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rapport: When Shit Happens

I love watching comedians. I especially love improv. Watching Robin Williams, for example, I always have the sense that he is walking on a razors edge between disaster and brilliance. He throws himself out there with no net below to catch him, (switching metaphors) walking the tightrope of hilarity, knowing that at any moment he could fall off into the abyss of absurdity.

“What’s working tonight? What’s not working?”

“What is the present psychological state of my audience?”

“Do I push the envelope here or … there?”

Talk about staying in the moment!


In any effective communication strategy, the ability to calibrate where my audience is in-this-moment, and the ability to remain flexible are absolutely necessary.

Watching the Red Skelton Video: he has a prepared shtick, he walks out … and shit happens. Literally. Now what? He goes with it. He improvises so as to attain his intended outcome: eliciting laughter from his audience. He doesn’t ignore the obvious. He doesn’t seek to keep to the script. He uses the unexpected, takes a different route, and arrives at his destination.

What would have happened had he ignored the cow pies? The audience wouldn’t have heard a word he said, but would have remained fixated on the south end of the cow.

Rapport with your audience isn’t something you attain and then forget about it. Rapport is an ongoing process. Are they with me or not? If not, I must re-captivate them. If what I had planned to say is no longer possible, what do I say now?

The strategy you have developed for persuading your audience is not what matters most. What matters most is your intended destination. If your strategy isn’t taking you where you want to go, if the unexpected derails your plans, don’t be hard headed … be flexible.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rapport: Captivating and Mesmerizing

The process of communication and persuasion begins with captivating your audience. This includes more than captivating their eyes: you want their ears, minds, and hearts.

In the late 1700’s, Franz Mesmer would bring people to his palatial home in Paris where he claimed he was able to heal them through the use of magnetism. As you walked through the doors you would smell the fragrance of orange blossoms and incense wafting through the air, hear the singing of an unseen soprano being accompanied by a harpist. The young male attendants, all incredibly handsome, were dressed in vivid colors. The entire scenario was crafted so as to captivate and to produce an atmosphere conducive to Mesmer’s ends. This is where we get our word, mesmerize.

Look at a how an elegant restaurant utilizes smells, music, d├ęcor, how the wait staff is dressed, and at the setting of the tables to captivate all of your senses. The intent is to give you a memorable experience: one where you will wish to return again and again. If they do their job, you will be captivated — mesmerized — and become a committed patron.

Consider a cathedral or temple with its architecture, its paintings and sculptures, music and incense: all are crafted to captivate you and lead you—your thoughts and your senses—into a particular experience.

How you craft your presentation so as to captivate your audience is critical to the goals of your communication. Your dress, how you utilize your voice, how you stand, sit or move as you speak, as well as the ambiance you create in the room must all be carefully planned and processed, if you are to truly keep your audience mesmerized.

Of course, if people feel that you are merely seeking to distract them with smoke and mirrors so as to take them somewhere they do not wish to go then you will not realize your outcome. If they believe that your actions are a game to hide your lack of substance, that you are “all sizzle and no steak,” "all hat and no cowboy," "all shot and no powder," "all bark and no bite" ... Phew, sorry ... got a bit carried away there ... not only will you fail to attain your outcome you will probably never have another opportunity to communicate with these people again.

Captivating people is not about manipulating them—as that word is typically understood, anyway. Captivating or Mesmerizing is about holding people’s full attention in a way that supports the intentions of your communication. Anything short of inspiring trust will definitely not be supportive of your outcome.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Rebekah!

Happy Birthday to my eldest daughter, Rebekah,
who is just a tad over 1.5 … Celsius.

After getting Rebekah home from the hospital,
I remember thinking
no one had told me that,
when you had a child, it was as if
your heart was ripped out of your chest
and now lying in a bassinet.

May you live all the days of your life!
(Jonathan Swift)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Oxygen of Communicating

A salesperson is clearly communicating the value of her product while the audience is silently thinking, “How long is this going to take?”

A minister is passionately sharing his message with a congregation that is lost in thoughts of various fears and concerns about their lives.

A team member is relating data she believes pertinent to the team’s deliberation, while most of her team members are experiencing MEGO disease. (My-Eyes-Glaze-Over.)

A history teacher is holding forth on the American Revolution in the 1700s, while his students are contemplating the pros and cons of sneaking out of the house tonight, after their parents have gone to sleep.

What is missing in each of these scenarios?

What is it that keeps those with whom you are communicating in the right frame of mind so as to genuinely be open to your influence?

What is the most critical source of efficaciousness in persuasiveness?

What is the oxygen that keeps your conversation alive?

What is it that all Great Communicators possess and ineffectual communicators overlook or even consider trivial?

What is…rapport? It is the answer to every question just asked. Rapport is the difference between broadcasting your message and actually communicating.

Rapport is a connection between people, a sense of appropriate symbiosis/ mutuality.

Rapport is the maintaining of a relationship with those with whom you are seeking to communicate.

Rapport is the continual captivation of the attention of those with whom you wish to persuade.

Rapport is an atmosphere of trust.

Rapport is an ongoing demonstration of understanding.

I have watched the most articulate and elegant speakers—religious leaders, politicians, salespeople, lobbyist and parents—fail to achieve their outcome because they did not maintain rapport. And once you have lost rapport, you either get it back or acknowledge that all you are doing is throwing words at the people around you.

The next few posts will focus on what goes into attaining and maintaining rapport.

Stay Tuned!

Coyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Happy Birthday, Abbey Road!

It was 40 years ago (August 8, 1969) when
the Beatles released their ultimate album
(and last),
Abbey Road. My dad went ballistic when
I played it. Something about Commie
Pinko Hippies, if I remember correctly.
I loved it ... still do ...
Except when it is played as
Elevator Music!!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

You Cannot NOT Communicate

Everything about you is communicating. Your posture, how you are breathing, the level of your energy, your eyes, how your hair is styled, your attire and a zillion other things about you are transmitting data to everyone around you. The question is this: is all of this data supporting or detracting from the intention of your communication? Is everything about “you” congruent with your spoken words?

Think of communication this way:

The tonality of your words is, in fact, “words.”

The pace of your spoken words and the energy with which you are speaking those words are conveying specific thoughts to your audience.

Your posture—how you are standing, sitting, moving—is projecting word-thoughts to your audience.

Your clothing is a message. What is the message: authoritative, approachable, clueless ... what?

Your psychological state, which includes such things as your beliefs about yourself, your message and your audience, is telling a story.

The question is this: are all these “words” congruent with the intention of your communication?

Congruency = Efficaciousness

Speaking of words … simply because the words you choose to speak are clear to you doesn’t mean that they are communicating what you intend to your audience. This is why it is important for you to define your terms.

They Cannot NOT Communicate
Just as you are always communicating, so is your audience. Have you ever been speaking with someone whose mouth was uttering the word, “Yes,” but his head was shaking side to side with a very clear expression of, “No”? This is an incongruity that you will want to investigate. You can do this, overtly, “I notice that you are saying yes while you are shaking your head no,” or you can do it somewhat covertly, “I was wondering, is there any part of you hesitating to go forward here?”

We all are aware of the reality of this principle. Maybe you have perceived that, while an individual was speaking cheerfully, their demeanor was rigid and fearful. Or what about the time you were speaking with someone whose eyes were glued to yours as if she were hanging on every word, but you intuited that her mind had wondered off? There was something about her giving you important information--information that you will want to utilize.

Pay attention to what your audience is communicating. What are their postures, breathing patterns, and eyes (the window to their souls) communicating? Are they following you, or are their thoughts meandering elsewhere? Are they listening to you, or are they still thinking about a point you made five-minutes ago? Calibrate: constantly be aware of your audiences’ communications, determining whether or not they are moving along the direction you intend or not, and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009