Challenging Business Conversations: Increase Harmony by Monitoring Your Tone

January 25th, 2016

Would you like to increase harmony during challenging business conversations?  You can do it by monitoring your speech!

We all know that business discussions can be challenging whenever one of the participants is stressed or behaving inappropriately in any way.  Monitoring the way you speak is a powerful opportunity to influence conversations and business relationships for the better.

Monitoring your tone may be the most obvious and most important approach you can use.  Your tone of voice is a strong indication of the opinions you hold about your conversation partners.  It reveals the truth of your feelings.  Those feelings can easily leak out and, if they’re negative, obviously they can jeopardize business relationships. 

People respond to tone of voice.  When your tone of voice contradicts your words, your tone of voice is what people respond to the most.  Whenever you hear yourself sending a mixed message (when your tone and your words don’t match), acknowledge it verbally in the moment, and explain it to your listeners, using a different tone.  For example, you might say something like, “I’m sorry if I sound a bit rushed.”  Or  “I know that I sound angry; that’s because this issue is very important to me.”   

Monitoring and modifying your tone of voice in the moment will have a very positive impact.  It’s an important step in increasing harmony during challenging business conversations.

 

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Build Trust & Rapport in Business Conversations: Acknowledge Positive Intent

December 2nd, 2015

Here is a strategy that will help you deepen trust and rapport with your business conversation partners:  acknowledge positive intent.

Positive intent is the good purpose meant to be served by any communication or behavior.  Always look for positive intent within others; give people the benefit of the doubt in situations that are difficult or have not turned out well, and especially when your conversation partners have caused a problem.

Take the following three steps:

  • Look for things to thank people for.
  • Verbally express appreciation for things that people have done well.
  • Acknowledge any information that people may have lacked, and promise to keep them better informed in the future, even if it’s not your job to do so.

Then say:  “Thank you for (xyz)”.   This is the point when you will mention the person’s positive intent.  For example, if a person has been excessive in some way or overly-detailed, or has made errors, you might first say something like, “Thank you for your attention to detail.”

In some situations, unfortunately, it may be challenging to identify someone’s positive intent!  If you truly cannot identify positive intent, make something up that is plausible.  When you mention a positive intent that is plausible, it’s very unlikely that your conversation partners will deny that this was their intent.  Most people want to be seen in the best light and appreciate the opportunity to save face.

In the moment when you’re identifying positive intent, blend.  Blending is any communication or behavior that minimizes the differences between you and another person.  This means that you will mirror (and not mimic) your conversation partner’s tone, tempo, volume, energy level, and body language.  Give receptive signals, such as “oh, yes, I see, I understand, etc., and use lots of head nodding.

Verbally acknowledging positive intent will help you build trust and rapport and increase your success in business conversations.

 

 

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Building Belief With Acting Objectives: Benefits for You

November 2nd, 2015

In my last few blogs, I have described the value of applying acting objectives when you prepare to speak for business.  Here are some additional benefits that you will experience when you use this technique.  Pursuing acting objectives

#1:  gives you laser-beam focus and simplifies the process, because it gives you just one thing to think about: what you are doing with your words as you speak

#2:  galvanizes your energy toward your listeners; it’s the quickest and most powerful way to project energy, commitment, passion, and poise.

#3:  provides a completely organic way to make your voice and physical demeanor support your content.  It turns your voice, body language, and content into one seamless, unified message.

When you are speaking in business conversation or making a presentation, this gives you maximum power and delivers to your listeners maximum impact.

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How to Be “Listener-Focused” by Pursuing Objectives

October 5th, 2015

Whenever you speak/present in business, it’s very important to keep your focus on your listeners:  on what you ultimately want them to feel or do.   Nervousness (which is a focus on self) and a preoccupation with word choice or how you are coming across can jeopardize your power to influence.

Listeners care about one thing: “What’s in this for me?”  This is why speakers must always project a “you focus” and why rehearsing in front of a mirror is so dangerous:  it trains you to focus on yourself and on how you look (which is often detected by the audience and can project either arrogance or anxiety).

In my blogs, I have presented a theater technique that helps business speakers focus the mind on listeners; the technique is the pursuit of what actors call “acting objectives”.  “Acting objectives” are separate from the types of objectives that should be obvious from your content and which you might even articulate to your listeners.  Instead, “acting objectives”  have one purpose:  they are designed to propel your energy toward your listeners and project a “you focus”. 

Once you have chosen powerful acting objectives for each “beat” (see my previous blog about “beats”), keep your acting objectives private:  they should be your secrets. Have you ever noticed that your secrets hold great power for you?  For speakers, this is helpful; we want our acting objectives to hold power over our demeanor; we want them to give us an audience-focused delivery style.

Rehearse the way actors do:  rehearse aloud, rehearse often, and rehearse at top energy.  As you speak the words of each beat, focus on the underlying acting objective.  Your energy and commitment in this pursuit are key.  As you speak the words of each beat

  • Focus on the acting objective (what you want the listeners to do or feel), rather than on the exact words you are speaking
  • Keep the acting objective at the forefront of your mind
  • Pursue the acting objective with complete commitment:  as if your life depended on it

Finally, always be sure that your demeanor communicates, “My message is important for you, so I love being here with you.”

Pursue “acting objectives” to focus your mind where it belongs:  on your business listeners — to engage them fully and increase your power to influence.

 

 

 

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Enhance Your Leadership Presence With Acting Improvisation

August 28th, 2015

Would you like your business listeners to trust you more?  Would your business improve if you could convince prospects that you will be a true business partner for them?  Would you like to generate more new business and keep more the business you already have? 

If you’re answer is YES, you won’t want to miss my exciting program called “Enhance Your Leadership Presence with Acting Improvisation.”  You’ll learn how to enhance your leadership presence by using acting improvisation, storytelling techniques, and the “yes and” mindset to transform your communication skills. You’ll learn how to generate business by deepening interpersonal connections, speaking with authenticity, building trust, and engaging your listeners. And you’ll learn how to address the changing needs of your existing clients by expanding your creativity and spontaneity. 

I describe this work as “serious fun”. You’ll be engaged in playful, interactive activities:  acting improvisation, theater and imagination games, and mind, body, and voice techniques that will help you project a spirit of collaboration and convince your prospects that you can (and will) help them solve their business problems. 

Let me tell you how acting improvisation will enhance your leadership presence: 

#1:  Whenever you speak for business, your listeners have one over-riding concern: they want to know what’s in it for them.  Acting improvisation addresses this concern.  Early in their training, actors learn that the audience is always asking the question, “Why are you telling me this?”  Acting improvisation teaches that you must answer this question, and answer it in a way that is compelling for your listeners.  This is a skill that every business leader needs!  If you’re not answering this question in a way that is compelling for your listeners, you’re losing business. 

#2:  To generate new business and keep the business you already have, you need to engage your listeners.  Acting improvisation teaches what a message is made of, what needs to happen; it teaches you how to discern when the beginning should be over, when your listeners have had enough of the middle, when it’s time to move on to the ending, and how long that should last, etc. Leaders who use this knowledge and the timing that it develops become truly engaging:  become masters of engagement.  And they have a measurable competitive edge! 

You, too, can become a master of engagement. Acting improvisation will teach you how!  Don’t miss the opportunity to experience this innovative program: you’ll take away powerful techniques to transform your leadership presence.  

Discover how play will enhance the way you work. And get ready for some serious fun!  I look forward to working with you.

 

 

 

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Build Listener Belief by Creating Acting Objectives

August 5th, 2015

You can build your credibility by building listener belief in the way that actors do:  Create and pursue acting objectives.  An acting objective is an action that lies underneath the words you speak; and ACTION that you take toward your listeners as you speak.  It is a specific, active verb; it expresses what you want to do to your listeners; what you want to make them feel or do.

Choose objectives that are personally appealing and  for you to pursue, so that you’ll be motivated and project energy.   There are three ingredients for an effective acting objective. Each objective should have the following qualities.  It should be

  1. a specific, active verb, Directed toward the listener
  2. personal and appropriate to the spoken message and the listener’s situation.
  3. truthful  (not necessarily actual, but  believable) 

Pursuing an objective gives you energy and focus as you speak, because it is a powerful action to take toward your listeners; a powerful action that lies underneath the words.  Listeners pay a lot of attention to the actions underneath the words you speak.

Here are some power verbs that might be useful at acting objectives (think, “I wish to __ my listeners”):  welcome them; stir their pride; impress them; honor them; warn them; make them laugh, etc.

Keep your acting objectives private; they should be your secrets.  The longer you keep a secret, the more power it holds for you.  You want your objective to have power of you; to have power to affect your delivery.  Keeping your acting objectives private will strengthen your motivation to speak and galvanize the commitment and passion in your voice and your gestures.

Actors write their acting objectives in the margin of the script, right next to the dialogue. Identifying power verbs as your acting objectives for each beat of your presentation will help you organize your ideas, internalize your message, and prepare you for the next step:  pursuing your acting objectives, as if you life depended on it!

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Your Credibility Factor: Using Actors’ “Beats” to Prepare Your Objectives

July 5th, 2015

In order to make choices about actions and identify acting objectives, actors divide the script into units (called “beats”).

Business speakers should do the same. Take a deep dive into the notes for your presentation and divide it into beats. Each beat is a separate topic, smaller than the overall subject of the message (not what you are doing with your words, but what you are talking about).

In the margin of your notes, label each beat:  a simple noun or noun phrase. 

When you know what each beat is about, you will be ready for the next step:  identifying an acting objective for each beat.

 

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Building Credibility When You Speak: The Value of “Acting Objectives”

May 31st, 2015

Savvy professionals apply acting techniques to help enhance their credibility and gravitas when they speak for business.  They know that they need to build belief within the listeners, so they borrow techniques that actors have used for decades.  So can you.

Crafted actors spend years perfecting a craft that is designed to build belief.  This is why advertisers so often rely upon actors and their craft:  they understand that actors’ techniques and performance skills are fundamental to the business of selling any idea, product, or service.

When actors are preparing a role, they make careful choices about what actions to take, to help the audience believe that the make believe situation is real.  For actors, it’s all about actions; for actors, actions speak much louder than words.

To prepare, actors create “acting objectives”.  These are actions that lie underneath the words – actions they plan to take toward their listeners.  This helps actors to be motivated to speak the words that the playwright or screenwriter wrote, and speak them truthfully, authentically, and conversationally.

In rehearsal and performance, actors pursue their acting objectives as if their lives depended on it.   This helps the audience believe that the actor and the character are one and the same:  that the actor IS the character.

This applies to you when you speak for business for two important reasons:

  1. You want your business listeners to believe something: to believe that you have solutions to their problems, for example.  The more rigorously you pursue your actions (your acting objectives), the more completely your audience will believe:  believe that you and your message are one and the same; believe that you are your message.
  2. Whenever you are speaking for business, when you make listeners believe, they are very likely to overlook minor shortcomings or mistakes you might make.

Throughout my acting career, and as a professional speaker, I have occasionally neglected to rehearse with the use of acting objectives.  Invariably, whenever I have neglected to use this technique, I lost the acting job or failed to engage my business listeners.

Your business speaking/presentations will never be perfect; there will always be something to improve upon and something that you might consider to have been slightly “negative” in your “performance”.   Without the use of acting objectives in your preparation, you significantly reduce your ability to make business listeners believe.  When that happens, your listeners have little to focus on BUT the negative.

Once you have helped your business listeners believe, you’ve won them over to your side.  After that, they will forgive you almost anything!

 

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Engage Listeners With the Power of the Pause (“Let Your Ideas Land”, Part 3)

May 3rd, 2015

 

Would you like your business listeners to be drawn IN when you speak?  Would you like them to feel eager to hear what you’re going to say next?

If your answer is YES, you need the power of the pause.  Successful business speakers, like good actors, always consider pacing when they are going to speak.  The tempo of your spoken word has a strong impact on your listeners and directly influences their level of engagement and influences the way you are perceived.  Your pauses are key.

Even the smartest and best listeners need a moment to process a spoken idea.  When you listeners can see you, they need time to interpret meaning from a broad palette:  your visual delivery, as well as vocal delivery.  Your pauses can give them the time they need.

A University of Michigan study revealed that when speakers never paused, they had the lowest success rate in getting listeners to do what they wanted them to do.  And the great British actor, Sir John Gielgud, famously said that, when acting Shakespeare, the pauses are the most important moments of the speech!  He knew that pauses can be captivating.

Help your business listeners receive the full impact of your message by giving them the gift of time.  Pause briefly after each complete thought, to let it “land”.  Don’t be in a rush to go on to your next idea.  Another benefit of the pause is that it gives you time to get a reading on your listener’s understanding and engagement level.  During the pause, breathe deeply and maintain eye contact.

During the pause, your listeners will usually be wondering why you’ve paused and wondering what you’re going to say next.  So, your pauses increase listener curiosity and engagement level, and they make you more compelling.

Without the pauses, your listeners may feel overwhelmed by an unmanageable amount of input.  They may lose some of your meaning; they may even tune you out.

When you give your listeners time to process each thought, you are respecting their needs, communicating that your message has value, and drawing them IN.

Never underestimate the power of the pause!

 

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Captivate Your Listeners: Use Focus Words to Let Ideas “Land”

April 4th, 2015

Would you like your business listeners to feel compelled to listen to you?  Would you like them to hang onto every word you say?

Here is a tip I learned from one of my acting teachers, the late Mira Rostova, who was also coach to the great film actor Montgomery Clift.  This will help you become a more compelling speaker and is Part 2 of my Series called Engage Your Listeners by Allowing Your Ideas to Land When you Speak. 

One of the most common mistakes speakers make is to stress too many words within one spoken idea.  Speakers who do this are usually attempting to be clear, but the result is often a delivery that sounds unfocused or pedantic; it can even sound condescending.

While every word that you speak “counts” and should be understood by the listener, take time to consider WHICH  of your words should receive focus.  The more words you stress within one phrase or sentence, the more you lose focus and clarity.  Mira Rostova used to say, “go for the point; go for the point!”

To prepare for any business presentation, include the following three strategies:

  • Review your notes and identify the focus words of each complete thought.  Be very discriminating as you choose your focus words.   Find creative ways to add depth and an interesting perspective to your ideas by choosing to placing stress in unexpected moments.  This will add an element of surprise in your delivery and will help you engage your listeners.
  • Underline the focus words of each complete thought.  Then, internalize your content; don’t memorize it.
  • As you rehearse aloud, stress only the focus words of each complete thought.  Keep those focus words at the forefront of your mind, and pursue them energetically as you speak.

Rehearsing this way will drive your ideas with power.  And the paradox is this:  when you become more selective about which words to stress, you’ll help your listeners hang on to every word you speak!

 

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