October 10

Why The “Right Words” Are Wrong


“I just need the right words to connect with my clients” 

This is one of the most requested outcomes my clients want from our public speaking course called “Communicate With Confidence.”

While certain words do help in making a great connection and I do assist in refining client’s messages, when we look at the components of effective communication, we see that what you don’t say has more impact than what you do say and so that’s what we focus on.

There’s an interesting study which analyzed the components of communication.

Here’s the chart representing Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s research on how communication is received and these 3 components reinforce that it’s not so much what you say, but how you say it.

parts of communication

Source: (Albert Mehrabian, source www.kaaj.com/psych, retrieved 29 May 2009)

Your non-verbals and tonality are the most important parts of communication and the area of non-verbals is where business professionals are often even not aware of how they may be sending off signals that reduce trust and connection when speaking.

“Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.”

We hear this growing up, that initial impressions can be wrong and that we should get to know someone before we make a decision if we like them or not.

While this sounds good, in the information overloaded world we live in, this doesn’t happen because:

  1. There’s too many options, clients don’t have time to get to know every option in detail
  2. Your initial assessment is usually correct, so most people go with their “gut feeling”
  3. When searching, we’re solution focused, so eliminating options as fast as possible is our objective to find the best choice

You are being judged quickly, but how quickly?

I’ve heard both 7 seconds and 15 seconds, but according to experiments by Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov, it could be even less:

“all it takes is a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger from their face, and that longer exposures don’t significantly alter those impressions (although they might boost your confidence in your judgments).”

Source: “First Impressions,” Psychological Science July 2006

Regardless of the exact amount of time it takes to make an impression, the fact remains that your clients are judging you very quickly and often it’s being made before you even say a word.

While this may be unsettling, once you know specifically how to increase your non-verbal positioning to showcase maximum confidence, you will have the ability to always make the best first impression and that is the first step in confident communication because a few adjustments, can be the difference between making a great impression of trust and expertise or being negatively judged and quickly passed over.

So now we’ve established:

*You are being judged faster than ever

*Clients are making impressions of you before you’ve ever said one word

*There could be non-verbal actions you may be doing that are reducing your levels of trust and costing you deals, but you’re not even aware of it

Most business professionals are often not aware of how they may be sending off signals that reduce their trustworthiness, a few examples are:

1. Positioning their body in ways that demonstrate “low power”

This is when speakers round their shoulders in, pace quickly, stand away from the audience, creating too much distance to make them feel connected.

The key to this mistake is presenters are making themselves look small, you want to open your body up and look as big as possible, this demonstrates vulnerability, which is transferred into confidence.

Think of a Lion, big, stretched out lounging in the sun, he knows he’s powerful and is not afraid of a threat and the body positioning demonstrates this.

2. Being unable to maintain steady eye contact

This occurs when a presenter either feels uncomfortable and avoids eye contact or they do the opposite and try to make eye contact with everyone, which makes them look “shifty” and sets off internal red flags to not the speaker

For a guideline: When presenting to a larger group, the optimal percentage of eye contact is 20-30% and in small group situations, you want to maintain eye contact for 60-70% of the time.

3. Positioning their hands in ways that distract their clients

I get it…it’s comfortable to hold your hands like that!

This is the most common response I receive when making adjustments to have clients use the ideal hand position when presenting and while it may be comfortable to put your hands there, you’re reducing trust with your audience, so do you want comfort or results?

You want results, which is why you’re reading this article, so here’s the 3 biggest mistakes with hand positioning :

Crossing your arms

While comfortable, this position make you “close off” your body from your audience. The most effective non-verbals demonstrate openness and connection, this does the opposite.

Hands in your pockets

Again, yes it could be comfortable, but it’s a distraction that is taking your audience’s attention off your face and how good their feeling and having them wonder “what are you doing in your pocket?”

Hands behind your back

Another classic, which has a similar effect to having your hands in your pocket. The first element in creating an effective connection with any audience is they must feel safe.

So even more than wondering why your hands are behind your back, their focus will be on what you’re holding behind your back and as far fetched as it may sound, we’re primed to view hands behind our back with suspicion because that’s where weapons are held and when first seeing someone, to recognize if they’re a friend or enemy, research shows that we immediately look at people’s hands to gauge safety.

4. Not smiling when you first meet someone

Going back to our primal need for safety. When you first approach someone, they will be judging you as you approach and this is another example of judgement before you have an opportunity to say a word.

This quickest way to let them know that you are a friend, not a foe, is as you approach, smile at them. While this may seem like an obvious suggestion, it often doesn’t happen as people are consumed with the number of tasks they have or are still thinking about the meeting they just came from. Make a conscious effort to smile when you approach people and observe if the interactions improve.

5. Focusing on what the other person is thinking of them

In my experience, all the tips are valuable, but this one represents the biggest challenge and will have the biggest impact on your confidence when you do it.

I often hear “I don’t care what people think about me.” 

Unfortunately, in most cases, this is not true and is an attempt to either cover the fact that they do or the person is trying to trick themselves into believing this.

We are very conditioned to seek opinions and have others validate our work and what they think of us and when structured as constructive criticism there is nothing wrong with that.

So where this functions to lower your confidence is in a 1-on-1 situation or small group situation, as you’re communicating, you’re simultaneously trying to see what they other person is thinking of you.

While I hear many examples to justify this:

“I’m very intuitive and pick up on other people’s energies”

“I can read other people’s thoughts”

Perhaps you are very intuitive or sensitive to people’s energies, but for many, this actually represents an opportunity for you to “fill in the gaps and create a story” of what the other person is thinking because humans are meaning-making machines, we want to fill in the gaps so when we reflect back on what happened, we can justify the outcome based on how we interpreted the encounter went.

So having some perception is helpful, on whole, focusing on what they are thinking reduces your energy, confidence, and most importantly the connection of the encounter.


Because we’re very perceptive to when someone is speaking to us or listening and has tuned out or is thinking of something else.

In the 3 keys of building charisma, which I cover in the course, Presence is one of them. This is when you are speaking with someone and their entire attention is focused on you. It makes you feel special, validated, and you will have a favourable feeling of that person.

people remember how you make them feel

The key to Presence is completely abandoning the “what are they thinking” mentality.

How do I do this?

*Stop people pleasing.

One of the quickest ways to lose power is to try to  shift who you are so they will like you more. This  will lead a disconnect between who you are and who  you are trying to be.

Your most confident self comes  when you are  comfortable with who you are and have the mindset:

If you like me great, if you don’t that’s great too 

People pleasing behaviour comes across as needy and insecure, you will also be at high risk to be manipulated, which will lead to resentment because your goal is to be liked, so you will focus your energy on doing what other people want/expect of you, instead of doing what you desire.

*Focus completely on the person you are speaking to

Aside from being intoxicating to be on the receiving end of this, you can only achieve this level of connection once you have stopped thinking about what you have to do next and what happened before…It Doesn’t Matter!

The person you are communicating with doesn’t care, they are only focused on themselves and you want to be as well tomaximize your confidence.

*Trust Yourself

This can be a big challenge, but with the right training and practice, can be achieved. One of the greatest fears new clients have is in what they are going to say, again, knowing the “right words.”

What happens when you’re in this state, is you self-edit what you say, so you’re in a conversation and simultaneously judging what you just said/are saying.

This leads to you moving from thinking about what you said, to judging what you said. Example thought: “I can’t believe I just said that, I’m such an idiot.”

So as you self-edit, you’re overloading your brain because we have a limited capacity to think at one time and you’re cramming what you want to say, while adding judgements of what you aid at the same time.

What Happens When You Trust Yourself?

When you transition to trust yourself to say what you mean, this is when your confidence will increase significantly. I see this often in my workshops as a client will speak on camera, holding their notes, which often leads to it coming across as mechanical.

Then I urge them to let go of the paper and trust themselves. There’s nervousness at first, but what happens is they then start to see they can speak without notes if they trust themselves and their confidence and connection with the audience surges as instead of diverting your energy to judge yourself and think what the audience is thinking, you harness all your energy of focusing of connecting with the audience and confidently sharing your message.

What Results Can I Expect When I Do These Steps?

When I speak with past clients about what was most valuable from the training, the most common response is confidence, but not just the confidence, more so it’s the freedom the confidence provides them.

Because now, instead of seeing opportunities and questioning if they can do it, they have the confidence to seize them without thinking about it. There are opportunities to share your message and showcase your expertise everywhere and now they have teh freedom to decide as the only question is “Do I want to seize this opportunity? It’s an empowering place to be.

Imagine how confident you would feel if you knew exactly how to communicate non-verbally and build instant trust and rapport when speaking in every situation.

This would completely change your levels of confidence because instead of wondering how to position your body or making these unconscious connection killing mistakes, you had a step-by-step system to speak with confidence.

To get information on this system, click the link for details of the Communicate with Confidence program: Training Details


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