You can't not communicate! If you stop to think about it you’re always on. You’re always transmitting. Whether you like it or not your audience is interpreting your every move. They’re not necessarily doing it consciously. The simple truth is they can’t help themselves. They’re hard wired to. Our monkey brains are constantly carrying out risk assessments, deciding whether or not the person in front of us poses a threat, deciding where we fit in the hierarchy, whether we’re top of the tree or on the lowest rung of the ladder. If we’re doing it to others then we can be sure that they are doing it to us too. For better or worse we are always making an impact but it may not always be the impact we desire.
The simplest thing we can do to take control of the impression we are making is to bring our awareness to our presence. To notice. To notice what we are doing with our body, with our breath, with our words. We don’t need to judge our performance but we do need to understand it. Once we understand what we are doing we can start to choose. Are we making ourselves small? Are we using language that undermines us? Are we failing to make our voice heard? Calibrating your performance gives you more flexibility allowing you to decide which aspects of yourself you turn up or down depending on your audience and objective. You can start to take control.
When I first start working with people they often think impact is about bringing lots of energy to an interaction, about making themselves seen. This certainly works in the short term but it is difficult to sustain and often causes others to switch off. What is much more powerful is the impact that comes from being present, from connecting with others and shining the light on them. Like him or loathe him as an actor Tom Cruise does this brilliantly on the red carpet. He’s notorious for spending three or four hours working the crowd. He doesn’t need to. He’s already been paid his multi-million dollar fee by the time he gets to the premier. He could easily jump out of his car, wave to a few fans, do a couple of TV interviews, pose for the paparazzi and then disappear into the safety of the cinema. Instead he takes a very different approach and the impact is huge. Rather than taking the spotlight for himself, he directs it to the crowd, he makes them the stars of the show. The simple act of giving them his time, of listening to them and making a connection is the ultimate example of star presence and we can easily do the same for our audience.
So if you want to make more impact in your interactions with others, take some time to get to know yourself and then switch the focus onto the people you are with. Whether you’re in meetings, giving a presentation, attending a job interview or hanging out with your loved ones this simple change will leave your audience wanting more.