interaction

Don't be a hermit – interact with impact with these five tips

Participants in a Chirp leadership and communication workshop run by Kamala Katbamna

Human interaction is at the heart of work. Its impact is everywhere – from process to productivity, outcome and enjoyment. Unless, of course, you’re a hermit.

Despite its centrality, that interaction can often feel unpredictable, ineffective and draining. After all, you can never guarantee someone else’s behaviour. You can, however, ensure your own is more influential, clear and effective.

Below are five tools to help you make the impact you choose in your daily interactions. Yes, they take practice, but they can make a crucial difference – particularly if you’re leading change. Either way, they’ll help you achieve your outcomes without wasting time and energy. No need to become a hermit, then.
 
1. Don’t look down!
Look up, make eye contact, then begin. Taking that moment to connect tells people you're fully present – and that your contribution is worth their attention. This is particularly useful in presentations and when opening meetings. Good eye contact also signals that you’re engaged with their response.

It might sound obvious, but it’s surprising how many of us launch straight in, without first establishing a connection. In so doing we risk throwing away our words on a distracted audience, silently dismissing their contribution, and reducing our impact.

2. Stand your ground
Yep, even if you’re seated. If you’re standing, keep your feet hip-width apart. Feel the ground through your feet. Resist the urge to drop one hip or place your weight on one leg. Again, obvious enough, but not always easy to avoid in the moment. If you’re sitting, feel the ground evenly through both feet. It can be tricky in a skirt, but worth doing whenever possible.

Feeling the ground through your feet does what it says on the tin; it helps you feel more grounded and present. It also stabilises your posture, preventing you either feeling or looking like you’re in 'fight or flight'. And that in turn creates a more powerful presence.

3. Abdominal breathing
Imagine a pair of bellows. As the air goes in, they expand; as it leaves, they contract. The same idea applies to abdominal breathing, ideally through a slightly open mouth. As you breathe into the bottom of the lungs the abdomen expands; as you breathe out it contracts. The most important thing, however, is to breathe out first!

Breathing is critical both to how you feel we’re perceived and how you are perceived – influencing how you behave and others respond. Most people take shallow breaths and/or hold their breath, particularly when nervous or challenged. Abdominal breathing reverses this so you operate more effectively. It also helps you speak more clearly and avoid swallowing words. You’ll feel better, be perceived more positively, and imbue your words with the impact you intend.

4. Take the space
Being aware of the space around you – above, below, in front and behind – can transform the impact of your presence. Unfold into that space. Release your arms from your sides. Broaden your shoulders away from your ears. And keep your feet hip-width apart. Hunched shoulders, crossed arms and a caved chest don’t just restrict breathing and create tension. They also make you physically smaller – impacting on your personal presence and suggesting that you don't want to be there.

So take the space, expand into it, occupy it. Your posture will improve. Your chest will open and you'll breathe more easily. You’ll create a stronger presence. And you'll signal to others that you are ready to be seen and to engage.

5. Channel your inner ventriloquist
Okay, not really – but imagining that the stomach (venter) is powering your speech (loqui) can help you project without straining or shouting.

Most people reach forward with their head and neck when they want to be heard. Bring them back instead so they’re aligned with your spine. Relax the throat – it will tense if you shout – and, when you speak, engage your lower abdominals. Projection can take some practice, and works best in conjunction with the other tools. Once cracked, however, you'll deliver your ideas with impact. It's also brilliant sore throat prevention in noisy pubs!

 

Want to learn more? Download our free Chirp Guide to find out how to use your voice more effectively in meetings, pitches and presentations.

 

 

Why listening to Moaning Minnies is vital for success

Nothing works round here... La la la, I can't hear you...

Well, all right. Maybe not moaning minnies – but a complaint is a gift. And, when delivered to a business (rather than your mum), the lucky recipient can use it to improve products and services.

It seems we’ve got quite a lot to complain about, if last week's UK Customers Satisfaction Index is anything to go by. The annually published index shows that satisfaction has fallen for the second year running. It’s not all gloomy, of course – some companies continue to inspire adoration. Many others, though, just aren’t showing us the love. 

Numerous organisations now describe colleagues in other departments as internal ‘customers’, who also require superb service. Whether internal or external, that service can be improved by actively listening – even when it involves the odd moan. 

A failure to listen – and respond relevantly – is not only irritating, but pointless. Neither party benefits in the long term, and both may leave with raised blood pressure in the short term.

Ryan Block’s recent recording of his cancellation call to Comcast demonstrates this beautifully – and painfully. The Comcast employee clearly feels he must follow the script at all costs. He harangues Block, repeatedly prevents him from speaking, and refuses to acknowledge any answers he does manage to give.

The employee gives the impression that his life depends on Block not cancelling the contract. Perhaps his job does. Either way, it creates a deeply worrying impression of the organisation’s culture.

The conversation is astonishing – but perhaps not unusual. Most of us have had conversations at some point in which our presence has felt superfluous, whether with customer service reps or colleagues. As our opinions, knowledge or experiences fall on deaf ears, we may become disinclined to give the gift of feedback. And, if we can, we may resolve to take our custom – or our CVs – elsewhere.

Creating space for each other to speak, listening to what’s said rather than what we want to be said, and responding relevantly is a much more fruitful approach. Be alert to what’s not said, too. Non-verbal signals are often excellent indicators of whether the other party is actively engaged. Remember to be aware of yours, too – none of us operates in a vacuum.

By actively listening, and responding relevantly in our interactions, we can raise satisfaction among both colleagues and customers. And when a culture of listening extends right through from CEO to intern, and product design to customer, it creates a virtuous circle that both staff and customers will celebrate.

We hope you hear some valuable insights this week. Here at Chirp we run workshops to help colleagues both listen and be heard. If you’d like to find out more – or indeed, have some feedback for us – please do get in touch. We’re all ears!