The very smart Kevin Leahy is has a blog, as Knowledge Advocate, that you should follow. In a recent post, he talks about the “no more than 7 things at once rule.” He reminds me of this whenever we meet, because I tend to throw more information at people than they can process – many of us do that. A skilled communicator understands the rule: if you communicate more than 7 bits of information without time for processing, you lose the audience for your communication.
In a talk he gave a week ago, Kevin talked about a “stop making sense” rule. His point: nobody else makes sense the way you do, so if you give a talk where you try to make sense for others, you’ll fail. Instead of making sense, you should be seeking sense. Instead of expressing how you see the world, ask the others for their sense of it. (This is easier said than done skillfully.)
Yesterday I had the privilege to attend an informative talk about effective communication by my friend and colleague Kevin Leahy, aka Knowledge Advocate. One point among many in Kevin’s talk: the content of a communication doesn’t matter as much as we think it does. Kevin, an attorney, said that post-trial conversations with jurors finds that they often recall little about what was said, but much about how they felt about witnesses, based quite a bit on their perception of body language. Coincidentally this morning I find an article about research, conducted by MIT political scientists, that shows how the appearances of politicians strongly influence voters, that people around the world have similar ideas about what a good politician looks like. [Link to the paper “Looking Like a Winner” (pdf)]
Sounds like you can take this to the bank: how you LOOK is important, and your BODY LANGUAGE is also important. What you think and what you say? Not such a big deal.
Another point, reading between the lines of the MIT Study: you’re better off if how you look is congruent with people’s perception of your role – there are definite stereotypes. If you don’t look like a politician but you have political ambitions, it’s better to work behind the scenes. (I think politicians already know this).