Tag Archives: Truth Plane Communication

Unspoken words

18 Aug

Wait 2 minutes or more before responding to an angry email - the repercussions of your written word may come back to haunt you!

The way people strike us, the first impression they make, lingers long and often colours the relationship we have with them, if indeed we choose to have one with them at all. Even if our initial contact is through email, we still only get one chance to make a first impression, and seeing as though our image is communicated by our visuals, our behaviour, and our communication, it is in our best interest to be aware of how we express through the written, or unspoken word, and not just focus on the cut of our jackets – it all works together and it all reflects you.

Are you email aware?

I am usually in communication with new clients and business contacts through email. Because there is no facial expression or vocal tone in email, my message is actually quite limited,  just cold typed words that could be taken out of context and/or completely misunderstood. My message must be concise and clear, and really should communicate a warm and pleasant message.

To convey clarity and pleasantness, take the time to proofread your email for grammar and sentence structure, and set up your mail program for automatic spell check upon sending. Remember, your email may be all people have to go on if you’ve not met in person, and if they see that you are a good communicator who respects the English language, chances are, you have just made a good impression on them. You don’t know what the person reading your email knows, and if they see that you can’t tell the difference between your, yore, and you’re, you may not get the interview/job/date.

For this week’s post, I met with Kathryn Preston, vocal communication coach at So To Speak, and we talked at length about email communication.

“Be aware of who you’re writing to, and also be aware of the impact of your words,” she says.

This is wisdom. Think of it this way: if you receive an email that you perceive to have a negative or angry tone, and this triggers an equally negative emotional reaction in you, please stop, take a breath, and think about the repercussions of sending an angry response. Type it out if you have to right then and there, but DON’T SEND IT YET. Do something else for two minutes (or longer, hell, sleep on it if you can!), come back, read it again, and see where you’re at. REMINDER: your email is not a piece of evidence you can burn; digital correspondence is forever!!!

Emotionally charged punctuation

Dale Carnegie, the American writer and developer of  self-improvement and interpersonal skills courses, said “Act enthusiastic and you will be enthusiastic.”

How does one convey enthusiasm through the written word? Punctuation of course! Think about the exclamation mark, for example. This character, this vertical line with a dot below it can be wonderful expression tool and I think says much about the character who uses it. I, for one, have an immediate reaction to exclamation marks and I like people who use them. I find the mark very uplifting and it gets me interested! But use the exclamation mark with caution – enthusiasm is often contagious and not always appropriate.

It goes without saying that exclamation marks should be used with discretion, sparingly, lightly peppering our writing. Exclamation marks are full of life and speak louder than most punctuation, but are not generally used in straight up professions like actuarial science, law, podiatry, or lexiconography, so do pay attention to your audience when punctuating your emails, not only composing them.

Tone

“Technology is a great tool,” Kathryn says, “but technology is not human communication. The tone of the verbal message is set by the tone of the voice and without it, we have no context.”

Because the tone is missing, it is hugely possible that the written word could be misinterpreted. Depending on the mental and emotional state of the reader, an email with pleasant intentions can be taken as negative, terse, or combative.  (Has this ever happened to you? It has certainly happened to me. Miscommunication is often the root of relationship problems, personal and business.)

Keeping your language positive will help to avoid miscommunication and keep the tone positive. Kathryn suggests warming our emails by using positive language and choosing understanding and compassionate words instead of negative language that ridicules or criticizes, assumes knowledge, or attempts to induce guilt or shame (there is such a thing as communication bullying, you know!).

To further avoid negative tone, she adds, be more engaging in the email and use phrases like “feel free to comment”, make the message open instead of making a statement, and always keep the ball in your reader’s court and allow them to comment on the issue.

We have no control over what people communicate, but Kathryn explains that we always have a choice in the way we react to anything, in this case, email communication.

“Instead of deciding to take other’s words as negative or as criticism,” she says, “give the person credit for a positive intention.”

I agree with Kathryn. It  makes everything better for everyone if we assume that the composer of the email smiled as they wrote to us, so that we may respond with a smile as we write back. A like attracts like sort of idea.

Signing off

Kathryn reminded me that the sign off, or the farewell message in our email is our final word with lasting association. That idea made me think about something I’ve heard recently, that we may not remember the words a person used, but how they made us feel.

Mark Bowden, a communications specialist at Truth Plane Communications, often signs off his emails with different messages tailored to the tone of the message and the person he’s writing to, and I must say that keeping his email departures fresh and personal makes him memorable. Have a look at these examples he’s used in emails to me:

Best,

Best to you,

Very Best,

Very Best to You, Leah.

Dale Carnegie listed using a person’s name as one of his six ways to get people to like you in How to Win Friends and Influence People.  (“Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”) Mark’s last farewell on the list is of course the most appealing because he’s not only tailoring the sign off to me (or at least it seems that way from my perspective), he’s using my name, and gosh, I’m just tickled!

With a send off like that, Mark is transmitting good spirit and good will which leaves me a good feeling, and that is what I will recall when I next think of him. Nice association. You have the power to create a positive association too by being mindful of yourself and how you come across to others, even through electronic communication.

And with that, dear readers, I bid you adieu. Remember to assume a positive position when composing and reading emails and see what happens when you spread a little joy through the daily mail.

Best wishes,

~Leah

Leah Morrigan Image Consulting for Men

Transform Yourself

Website: http://www.transformyourself.ca/site/

Blog: https://leahmorrigan.wordpress.com/

416 795 8234

Canada’s first female men’s image specialist, oft-quoted in the media, inspiring professionals, politicos, and everyday Joes to perceive themselves in a new light: confident, distinctive, and comfortable in their own skin.

Naked, in disguise

9 Jun

Bowden as the Nike streaker in 2007. Click the image to watch the ad.

When people think of Mark Bowden, they might think of his 2010 book, Winning Body Language or see his techniques and coaching used by Stephen Harper in the 2011 election debates, or perhaps they think of his high-level training for high-level politicians and business leaders. But do people think of Mark beyond these terms?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I do. When I met with Mark recently, we talked about things other than the obvious business stuff, things like clothing and theatre and how they have affected him in different stages and incarnations of his life.

Respectful dress

When I met him, we wore a navy pinstripe Etro jacket with a fabulous patterned lining. His garb was simple and elegant with minimal but bold accessories. He likes Paul Smith and Ozwald Boateng of Savile Row for suits and sides with me on the importance of tailoring.

Mark is deliberate and likes to draw attention to small but substantial details in his dress because besides being stylish, these details can actually serve a purpose. He likes weighty French cuffs that are visible under his jacket sleeves to draw the eye to his hands (he works with them, you know), and he loves to wear red socks and red cotton shoe laces to go with his handmade Jeffery West red-lined shoes from Jermyn Street in London – the bright socks keep people interested and visually engaged during long presentations, you see.

We agree that looking one’s best is not only a positive reflection of ourselves but it is an act of respect for others.

“I care for my audience so I make an effort,” as Mark puts it.

We have other commonalities. For instance, Mark and I actually come from the same place, the theatre, but I studied design and he studied performance. Though the disciplines might be different, we both understand that theatre is about illusion and potential (i.e. not what it is, but what it could be), and we both use these theatrical concepts in our work.

Theatre

Knowing about Mark’s performance training really adds a fascinating dimension to his professional body language and presentation services and I can appreciate the complex emotional power behind his work.

Mark studied performing arts at Middlesex University, London, under one of Europe’s leading practitioners of mask theatre, John Wright. As a performer, he describes his training as “liberating, using the mask as a tool to disguise yourself from the audience and subsequently feel more free to give deeper emotions and dramas to them.”

The actor uses the mask to acquire a deep connection to the character, a concept with very primal roots, back to the age of hunters who wore the heads of the animals hunted to absorb the spirit of the animal and as a disguise to trick the spirits.

While at Middlesex, John sent Mark to Philippe Gaulier, a performance master who impressed Mark with Melodrama, or “cheers and tears” as Mark described it.

This theatrical genre can give an audience clarity and perspective, causing people to “gain consciousness in the horror of their real lives,” he says. It also has the capacity to quickly change the way an entire audience feels with its pathos and big, passionate emotions. Mark learned how to master his emotions and the emotion of breath patterns to influence and interact with his audiences, so not only is he affecting the way people feel, but the potential for them to feel.

3 Roles, 3 Costumes

As an actor, Mark must incorporate costumes into his character as if he (as the character) really owns the clothes or as though he really is the embodiment of the creature he is dressed as and make it seem natural.

I wanted to know about his favourite roles and the costumes he wore for each to illustrate how powerful the costume can be not only to the actor but also to the audience. It so happens that his physical comedic roles are the stand-outs. Mark explained that comedy is about contrast, building tension, and then breaking the tension, and the costumes for these roles provided hilarious visuals.

The False Corpse: An ironic one-man comedy. His character in this play is a comedian who is going to commit suicide while on stage. For this role, Mark put together a jumble of iconic comedic costume pieces: large clownish collars, tights instead of trousers (to show the movement of the legs and their “speech”), and a proper gentleman’s tail coat as a topping contradiction.

Hamlet: Mark played a gravedigger, comic relief to the heavy play. His costume was another jumble of pieces, but this time of Viking armour! He said he put on anything he could get his hands on including breast plates, horned helmets, and several swords in an effort for the character to take on a “god-like soldier guise to give the mortals in the play a hand”.

The Hobbit: Mark played one of the trolls in London’s West End in the J.R.R. Tolkien story. The three trolls wore large, heavy, difficult costumes, built on football player shoulder pads that had to be lowered over the head (not unlike those animal heads that the hunters wore for disguise, I imagine). The second tricky piece of troll costume was the footwear: Cothurni. Cothurni are elevated boots originally worn by Greek actors to increase their height and visibility to theatre audiences.

So Mark and the other trolls lumbered around on the raised platform Cothurni, arguing over whether they should roast, mince, boil, or squash the freshly-caught dwarves into jelly, using large body movements, having fun with each other and knocking each other around. Often, the plat-formed trolls would fall over and the smaller dwarves would have to help them to their feet. The costumes here brought out a “playfulness and cheekiness” in the characters that I’m sure absolutely delighted the audiences.

 Less is more 

Having explained all that, sometimes Mark doesn’t wear any clothes at all. In 2007, he was hired for a Nike commercial to streak through an English football match wearing nothing but a scarf and Nike Shox shoes; “a celebration of being free,” as he put it. For those of you who have been to a nude beach, you’ll understand this concept of freedom and having done so myself, I can tell you that communal nudity is amazingly liberating.

But I digress.

Clothing, or costume, is powerful. It creates different feelings within us and without us, and the people who see us will interpret our visuals and treat us accordingly.

“People make judgements based on what they see, and we have a limited time to make a good first impression,” Mark tells me.

Whether our wardrobe is for business or pleasure, or to create emotion in our audiences, we have the choice in the visual messages we send, and this is a powerful opportunity that should really be taken seriously; it is another tool of influence.

 You cannot climb the ladder of success dressed in the costume of failure.

-Zig Ziglar, American author and motivational speaker