Are We Defensive In How We Communicate?

When is being on your heels a good thing? And by that, I mean, being defensive.

We’ve all seen it before in sports, most recently in the Super Bowl. One team is up, and then there’s a momentum shift and the tide turns. I’ve had sleepless nights while coaching my 4th grade son’s basketball team, after we’ve been up a good amount—we started to play it safe. We try to avoid the worst that could happen instead of trying to be the best we can be. The difference is being on your heels versus having a forward lean.

Too many people are like that with their communication. We’re afraid of the “what if?”

What if I don’t do well? What if I show that I don’t know what I’m talking about? What if they can see my nerves? All of those “what if’s?” put us on the defensive and create more nerves. The shift? Go on the offense.

Lean forward into your audience both with your content and behaviorally—like you have nothing to lose. Figure out what you want to change in your audience. Stay on the balls of your feet and move towards them. Don’t be afraid of the “what if?” Instead, look at it from the opposite end—what if they don’t? That should spark a passion—and people buy off passion. With that comes a realness and an authenticity. The amazing thing is that all of this will help to settle your nerves because you’ll stop getting in your own way.

Years ago, when Carol Bartz was the CEO of Yahoo, I was working with one of their executives. I asked him, “What do you think about when you’re on stage?” and he said, “I’m just thinking about Carol. She’s in the front row and if she’s happy, I’m happy.” That’s a defensive mindset. So, I said, “Don’t think about one person, think about the other 999 people that are in the audience—what do they need to do? Where do they need to go? Help them understand the why and lean into them to do it. If you do that, Carol Bartz, will be happier and more impressed.” That’s an offensive mindset. The same is true for you and your boss.

Have that offensive mindset and be on your toes because that’s when the promotions and raises come—and better yet—the influence and change!

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