How can I communicate more effectively?
What does football have to do with creating quality communication? Building rapport is the cornerstone of getting people on your side. But there’s more to rapport than just mirroring – don’t worry, we’ll cover how that works too – there’s also the order you unroll your message. Follow this model and you’ll be able to score a touchdown when making an ask, whether it’s pitching your business to an investor, getting a raise, or even asking a friend for a favor.
Just like on the football field, the last few inches can be the hardest. But the rewards of effective, consistent communication patterns? Astounding. Here’s how to get you down the field.
Effective communication means thinking in patterns
The key to winning people over and getting them to say “YES!” is understanding how communication models actually work. Tony’s model of a football field that we outline here shows not just how to communicate effectively with the most power order for crafting your message, but also how much time should be devoted to each step. The yardage shows you what proportion each step takes, so 40 yards = 40% of the total communication time.
Step 1: Build identification and rapport (+40 yards)
Rapport comes from feeling like we have something in common with another person. When we think we have things in common, we’re more comfortable; when more comfortable, the more we enjoy being with others. Building rapport includes questions that are the backbone of small talk: where people come from, what they do, even talking about the weather.
But the real secret of building rapport lies in the nonverbal. How you use your body makes up 93% of what people respond to, so its critical for effective communication. This is why mirroring – where you match someone’s body movements, energy level, even breathing pattern – is a widely used technique to get people on your side. Start by following the person’s movements as a way to establish a connection. Are their legs crossed? Cross yours. Do they talk with their hands? Do the same. A quick test for physical rapport is changing your own position and seeing if they follow you. If so, you’re generating major rapport. If not, keep mirroring and try again a little later.
With this first step, you’re creating the solid base by getting your audience to identify with you. It takes the most time and is the most important part of any quality communication interaction. Your goal is to get your audience to identify and relate to you (and your message) right up front. Your want them thinking, “me too” as they process your message instead of saying, “so what?”
You often see politicians using these techniques. It’s why, to connect with voters, they talk about their childhood or struggles they’ve overcome. Get whoever you’re talking to, whether one person or a whole auditorium, to unconsciously think “yes, yes, yes” and you’re well on your way to Step 2 of how to communicate effectively.
Step 2: Logic & reason (+10 yards)
With your audience on your side, it’s now time to bring out the facts. You’ll want to give them just enough of the details to justify an emotional decision. Remember: people make decisions for emotional reasons, but they need to always be able to justify them with logic. So help your cause by giving them the logic they need to create this justification. Laying out your details and facts also proves that you can provide the solution and establishes you as a credible source for whatever you’re advocating.
Quick word of warning: Launching into dry details will likely kill the rapport you’ve built thus far. Integrate your information and continue to practice engagement. Guess what? You’re already halfway down the field!
Step 3: Attack & confess (+25 yards)
Here you do two things:
- Anticipate possible objections. By articulating the possible objections your audience could have, you show empathy and smarts. Chances are you learned this on your high school debate team or in speech class – it’s a tried and true effective communication technique for winning people over. By anticipating objections, you’re also strengthening your own point of view.
- Show the consequences. Claim that you had the same objections initially and attack yourself for it. In this phase your outcome is for the audience to realize the “hell if they don’t”– what is the consequence to them if they don’t follow through/take your suggestion? One way to accomplish this step is relating what happened to you before you took action.
Step 4: Solution (+24 yards)
You’re almost to the end! Now it’s time to lay out your solution to the challenges you just brought up in Step 3. Instead of a vision of hell, you’re showing a vision of heaven. Help whoever you’re talking to think about all the positives and benefits if they take action/follow through. Another pro tip: use the negative consequences for contrast – they’ll make the positives seem even better by comparison.
Here too is time to pick up the pace so that you gather enough momentum for the final step that effective communication needs.
Step 5: Ask for the action (final inches)
Now you ask for the action you want. By this point your audience is sold on the power of following through – you’ve made it logical and feel good. However, don’t take it for granted that they’ll always come along – ask for follow-through by requesting a specific commitment. That could be something as simple as a phone call or email or on the scale of a major investment of money and/or time. This last step shows you how effective your communication has been; now get out there and do it again!
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