The power of personality: increasing human connection at work
There is a belief that seems to linger in many workplaces: that there are two versions of you. One is the ‘you’ who is relaxed and comfortable around friends and family, present on the weekends and in social settings. The other is ‘you’ in the office: the professional and sensible ‘you’. Some people believe that the personal version of ‘you’ has no place in the meeting room. That part of you must be left at the door. After all, this is business! This thinking leads to a lack of connection and engagement between people.
If you decide to bring your whole self to a meeting you can immediately increase your impact. During the 2020 lockdown, we have seen clients and colleagues on video in their homes, giving us a greater insight to their personality and bringing down the formal barriers we sometimes face at work. As an actor on stage and screen for 20 years, I had to learn to bring greater expression to my work to engage an audience. These skills apply equally well in business. You can change the delivery of your information to enhance your message in the following ways.
People buy into you, not just your product or idea. There’s a reason you are in the room, so don’t be afraid to bring your own style to your message. The personal in ‘personality’ requires that you share something of yourself. At the start of any training day or call with new clients, I will always give a little background on who I am, my relevant experience and what value that brings to the interaction. This can allow greater connection through shared interests and values. It is worth making time to create a personal connection before the detailed discussions begin.
I was talking with a client recently about Barack Obama’s use of pace during his presidential campaign in 2008. At that time, his pace was around 185 words per minute (wpm). The average person speaks at about 140 wpm. He was using his pace to rally the crowds. The closer he got to the White House, his pace slowed down to 100 wpm. My client was fascinated to hear that he was deliberately controlling his speech to match each stage of his campaign, initially to sound inspirational and later presidential, with the gravitas and authority that slower speech can bring. In business too, you can change the way that people feel about your message by changing how you use your voice.
You might want to inspire your team into action at the end of a meeting by using a high pitch and fast pace, or slow right down and use low pitch to give the instruction “I need this finished by Monday morning”. The point is that variety in your voice keeps your audience engaged and shows them how to feel. If you deliver everything monotonously and at the same speed, it becomes both difficult to listen to and interpret the meaning.
The way we structure our information plays a huge role in how engaging and memorable it is. Most people are time-poor and so we feel that the best way to share information is as quickly as possible with no frills. It may be efficient but it doesn’t help anyone to stay interested in or remember your information. Instead, I recommend you try these three tips.
- Wherever possible, don’t just give people a list but instead tell stories. Think back to your school exams and which teacher helped you pass them: the one that gave you just the dry details with no embellishment or the one that brought some life to those details with an image, personal story or anecdote? As Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman writes, “No one ever made a decision because of a number, they need a story.”
- On a busy slide replace text with a relevant image. Images in presentations have been shown to be 550% more memorable than words. They also allow you to control the speed of your information without people reading ahead instead of listening. If you need to have it written down, you can always provide it on a leave-behind document at the end.
- Chunk your details into three main sections. You may have many things to say but the ‘Rule of 3’ helps us follow you on your journey and remember the details.
In summary, ensure that you tell the whole story when communicating your ideas. If you simply let the facts ‘speak for themselves’ people could be left confused or take away the wrong message. Using your natural personality, voice and storytelling skills will ensure that your ideas speak to your audience on a human level, which is where good business belongs.