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!

Top 10 Communication Moments of 2016

What a year. The Olympics. A Presidential Election. So much noise this year – a colossal communications cacophony. What, then, stood out? The moments. With such a divisive political, economic and social landscape this year, we found that people heard what they wanted to hear, and we also felt it … Continue reading

The Top Ten Best (and Worst) Communicators of 2015

From the power of care and rapport to the sexy baby voice, what can we learn from the new breed leadership sweeping through business, pop culture, politics and sports? Each of the people on the 20th annual list of Top Ten Best and Worst Communicators of 2015 can teach us … Continue reading

The 5 White Lies about Communication

All too often, business communication sucks. Why? We’re not willing to look ourselves in the mirror when we’re not cutting it. We tell ourselves little white lies to make us feel like, “Hey, it’s not so bad.” But if you really want to be a better communicator, then it’s time … Continue reading

The Audience Only Gets What You Give Them

The mask used by Michael Myers in the original “Halloween” was actually a Captain Kirk mask, painted white, due to low budget. Did you know that? I sure didn’t – I was so darn focused on how frightening he was. (Although after reading this fact on an airplane, I couldn’t … Continue reading

How to Rock an Acceptance Speech

Every time you speak, you create an experience for your listeners – whether they are your colleagues, kids, PTA or soccer team. In the case of Oscar acceptance speeches, it is no different. What is said and how it’s said combine to create either a this-is-a-great-time-for-a-bathroom-break or a riveting, tear-jerking, … Continue reading

The Life of the Panel

So many of our clients inquire about how to lead a panel, how to be a part of a panel, and/or how to be a moderator. We’re always looking for examples, and when you can – follow the example of a rock star. When Bill Clinton was late to a … Continue reading

What Do I Do with My Hands?

You’re standing at the front of a room of people. All eyes are on you. You know your content – phew. But there’s a nagging question that jumps to mind… (cue the video, below) We don’t advocate the politician gesture, and we’re not out to make everyone in business into a … Continue reading

Lightening Up!

True or False: To be taken seriously, you have to be serious? False. People buy on emotion and justify with fact. Whether we’re presenting at a quarterly business review (QBR), in front of your board or simply touching base in a one-on-one meeting, we have to be light! But don’t just take … Continue reading

Should I Be Likable or Influential?

Actually, you can be both – and you should try to be both. When you’re likable, you’re almost automatically more influential. As Bert wrote in You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard, “The likability factor dominates in politics. It dominates in business. And it dominates in our day to day lives. … Continue reading