Master the Art of Telegraphing

Hi all, @kellydecker here…

Think telegraphing is outdated? Think again.

When’s the last time you got a telegraph? Well, if you’ve interacted with anyone in the last ten minutes – a coworker, friend, boss or even your kids, you definitely got one. And I bet that you sent a couple in the process.

I’m a big John Madden fan. He’s the kind of authentic communicator that makes you want to buy him a beer, sit back, and listen to his stories. So I do (minus the beer) – usually right about the time I take the Fremont exit during my commute into the city – on The Daily Madden, his 8.5 minute gig on KCBS at 8:15am. Today he and the great Tony LaRussa were talking about the typical random and rambling banter of this segment when they turned to the topic of telegraphs. (Listen to the segment here.)

Telegraphing in baseball is common. Turns out that pitchers do it all the time.

LaRussa says that pitchers “get in these habits wherein they start their delivery and they let you know what they’re going to throw. The hitter sees that and they know what’s coming.”

This is pretty amazing. It means that the batter, who is standing 60 feet away, can look at how the pitcher raises his arm, grabs the ball and holds the glove and then that batter can figure out exactly how to hit the ball. They read telegraphs to their advantage, and to literally hit it out of the park. Don’t know about you, but I’ve got a newfound respect for ball players.

LaRussa continues, “Some guys are great at seeing it – it can be really just a glimpse of something…and some can’t, unless it’s really obvious.” And it’s becoming more important. “There’s a legitimate study going on in every big league team more every year at reading pitchers’ little quirks and tips.”

Sounds like business communications to me. Telegraphing is happening in nearly every interaction that you have, and you’d better get good at sending and reading those messages.

master4On the sender side, there’s nothing that will help you more than video. Just like in baseball (and any other sport for that matter – which is why the best athletes just keep getting better and better), you’ve got to “break down tape.” Until you get yourself on video, you probably have no clue how or what you do in your daily communications. What signals are you sending that either help or hinder your listener to do something with your message? It’s about making what is unconscious to you (your habits, quirks, ‘tells’)…conscious.

And if you can learn to read the telegraphs, you’ve got a game changer on your hands. Whether it’s selling a customer, delivering a performance appraisal, hiring a new team member, or talking with a friend – you’ll be well served to pick up on their telegraphs and respond appropriately. Here’s are a few ways to learn:

  • Read Blink. Malcolm Gladwell’s great best seller on how and why we make judgments in the blink of an eye.
  • Watch/Listen to your kids: They can’t help but wear their heart on their sleeve. Even though it’s obvious (and pretty funny) it’s a great way to get tuned into telegraphing in general.
  • For fun…watch a game of No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em. These guys and gals are good at reading “tells”, and really good at hiding them. At least watch (or re-watch for the umpteenth time) the movie Rounders and learn how even an Oreo cookie can be a downfall.

One comment on “Master the Art of Telegraphing

  1. If what we are talking about is body language, “What Everybody is Saying” by Joe Navarro is a good book. After making his scientific case about what is biological or taught, he cautions that we must not assume information conveyed by the signals (our audience) another person sends us. We still have to link their reaction as a result of our effort.

    Great article! I think we communications trainers should definitely start incorporating video recording in the classroom. I also really need to get that Gladwell book ASAP!