Why does conscious communication matter for you and your business?
We live and work in a world flooded with social media and communication networks, a world in which everyone wants to talk and nobody is willing to listen. This is not some futuristic Armageddon scenario. It’s the world in which we live and work right now – whether we are aware of it or not. And it’s having a catastrophic effect on how we communicate with each other, or, more precisely, how our ability to communicate is seriously malfunctioning.
Our Obsession with non-stop Talking
Our obsession with non-stop talking has reduced communication between us to a series of empty monologues, made up of soundbites, buzzwords and cliches that we fling into an abyss, hoping something will somehow find a listener as it stampedes its way into an unspecified somewhere.
How do we create a way out of this communication crisis that is making us strangers to each other and even enemies? The solution is simple, but not easy, because it challenges us at our core.
The Solution to the Crisis in our Communication
Like all solutions that are effective, we have to start by paying attention. In this case, paying attention to how we communicate. That begins with becoming aware of the following:
– how we talk
– how much we talk
– how much/little we listen
– how much we reflect on what others say BEFORE we speak
– how much we are willing to put aside the goals of our communication and allow the outcome to emerge organically
– how much we are willing to be with silence, instead of rushing to fill this space with empty trivia
The way to rebalance our communication is to become conscious of how we communicate and begin to correct the imbalance within.
Shifting from Monologue to Dialogue
As I’ve said before, when we learn to engage with others, we are creating a new communication template for everyone, one based on the principles of real dialogue instead of empty monologues that masquerade as conversations. Dialogue is right at the heart of conscious communication. It consists of three fundamental skills: Careful Listening, Non-Judgemental Reflection and Meaningful Response
- We can only participate in dialogue when we are first of all willing to LISTEN. Conscious listening is not a practised performance in which we dutifully nod, smile and add the occasional uh huh just to show that we are listening. Conscious listening is about giving our full attention to the person speaking. And when we consciously listen, the person being listened to can FEEL it. Authentic listening – as opposed to fake listening – can be felt.
- Next, we have to be willing to control our urge to respond immediately – to start talking as soon as there is a pause. Instead, we consciously REFLECT on what the other has said, maybe ask questions for clarification purposes. Reflecting on what has been said in a non-judgemental way takes us away from our agenda and allows the exchange to deepen and unfold organically. That’s when real shifts in communication take place.
- Finally, it’s time for us to consciously respond – after we’ve slowed down the pace to allow genuine human-to-human engagement and interaction to emerge.
That’s why conscious communication matters in a world obsessed with non-stop talking.
How to talk about your business so that people want to listen to you? Too few business owners ask themselves that simple question. It’s a pity. Because the answer could radically change how you run your business.
My conversation with Jerry began with his question: “How do I get people to listen to me without trying to own the whole room?” He’d just returned to the networking scene after a two-year pause due to Covid.
How to talk about your business is a problem for most, but particularly for quiet, private professionals and small business owners like Jerry, who are genuinely interested in having a conversation with a few people at these events, instead of ‘playing the room’. And his dilemma is just as applicable to the online world.
The Alternative way to Communicate
What Jerry wanted to know was this: could I offer him an alternative way to communicate beyond the standard solution – shout louder and longer as a way of being heard (which doesn’t work anyway)? He wanted to learn this essential business skill: how to talk about your business so that you easily reach the right audience.
Yes, I could. But it’s not a simple, one-step solution.
To get People to Listen to You, You Have to First Listen to Them
Basically, to get people to listen to what you say, YOU have to first become a better LISTENER yourself. Remember the basic principle of successful communication. People are more willing to listen to you when they feel heard by you.
Becoming a better listener is about becoming an ACTIVE listener, not, as is often suggested in the abundance of cheat-sheets on the topic, someone who simply nods, interjects with a “mm-hmm” and summarises what the speaker has just said. When we ‘perform’ the act of listening, we are focused on ourselves and our own responses, not on what the other is communicating. Active listening demands our undivided attention on what the other is saying.
The Art of Active Listening
Active listening is about engaging, interacting with the other. It’s a two-way exchange – it’s a dialogue.
Dialogue is about listening deeply to what the other is saying with interest and curiosity, reflecting on it with openness and non-judgement and only then responding. We can respond with relevant questions which let the others know that we didn’t just hear their words. Our questions tells them we want to understand them better, know more about them, go deeper.
The opposite to dialogue is a one-way broadcast, or monologue, usually a series of monologues in the fashion of a game of tennis, with each side trying to score a point, i.e. win the argument as in the art of debating.
So how do we practise dialogue in our daily business interactions?
Here are ‘few’ dos and don’ts to help you recognise the difference between dialogue and monologue – and, of course, choose the better option. They don’t just apply to quiet, conscientious people, like Jerry, nor to your business communication. They are relevant for how you communicate in every aspect of life.
- start talking about yourself. Start by discovering who the other is.
- use buzz-words and jargon. They are empty fillers and they kill dialogue (how ‘super’ and ‘awesome’ is everyday life?)
- put forward you opinions and beliefs as ‘The Truth’. It puts the other on the defensive immediately
- try to impress or convince with arguments. They are counter-productive – and they also kill dialogue.
- speak in simple, clear, direct language
- go for being your imperfect, real self, not some ‘best version’.
- choose honesty instead of influence. It’s one of foundation stones to building mutual trust
- strive to understand what drives the other – especially if it challenges you
How we Communicate is How we Live
Dialogue is a way of communicating and how we communicate is how we live and how we relate to the world around us. In our increasingly polarised world, isn’t it time we all learned and practised the art of dialogue with each other?Learn More
I specialise in marketing for introverts. I help quiet, conscientious, sincere professionals, freelancers and small business owners be heard, seen & found in a loud and noisy world, without compromising who they are or their way of during business.
When Eugene, who fits the client-description above, asked my opinion on a new course he was about to purchase, I was actually stunned.
The glossy, sales page promised a template for all your business communication needs. It was written and packaged according to every cliché, gimmick and ‘hot’ tactic in the book. (One template is free, but to get the whole template package you had to buy the full, over-priced course!) Does this sound familiar?
Sacrificing your uniqueness for a one-size-fits-all template
– Why would Eugene, a quiet, honest professional, buy a product that promised to remove his own voice and replace it with a bland and hollow template?
– Why would he sacrifice his uniqueness to disappear into a sea of sameness?
Like so many self-employed & small business owners, Eugene offers a unique, personal service that he’s customised over the years for his niche. He’s truly one-of-a-kind, who cares deeply about his work and his clients.
And that’s precisely what makes him stand out.
However, Eugene doesn’t see it that way.
He doesn’t value his unique way of doing business because he is not even aware of it. Like so many conscientious, quiet business owners, Eugene struggles with marketing, especially with marketing on social media.
He explained to me why he thought this expensive offer would solve his marketing problems. It would allow him to get away from the pressure to be active ‘out there’! He doesn’t find social media ‘easy’. In fact, he finds it ‘exhausting and stressful’. Does this sound familiar?
The online world of communication was designed for extroverts – for people who love the excitement of being part of social activities. They feel energised ‘out there’ and thrive on pubic platforms. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But … between 25% and 45% of us are not energised participating in the public domain. We are actually exhausted by social activities. And Eugene is one of us.
As Susan Cain explains in her thought-provoking book on introverts, it’s not about how much or how little we like to socialise that defines whether or not we are introverted or extroverted. It’s about how socialising impacts on our energy levels.
Marketing for Introverts: Some Alternative Options
What are the options for introverts?
Erasing our uniqueness with a conventional template is NOT one of them.
I already talked about alternative approaches to marketing here beyond the conventional ‘pitch’-approach. Here’s some simple advice I give to my clients:
Don’t try to fit into a world that was not designed for you! Pay attention instead to what comes naturally and easily to you and develop that.
For example, a lot of quiet, sincere people like to write. If that’s you, then focus on developing your writing skills instead of spending time on what drains your energies. However, just writing posts and blogs alone is NOT an effective tactic. To ensure that the right audience finds your writing easily, you have to think strategically about how they will find you. Here are some options:
- Find publications in your area of expertise and submit your writing to an existing audience
- Depending on how often you write, spend time and energy on the SEO for about one in three/four of your posts
- Choose about two pages of your website and spend time on fully optimising the SEO for those pages
Develop Your Unique Voice
The golden rule for making it easy for the right audience to find is this. Focus on developing your unique voice and speak only to those who ‘get’ you, i.e. those who value your approach and your service.
And how do you do that on a practical level?
You can connect with those who value you on social media without creating a personality that is not aligned with who you are. Instead of trying to shout louder than everyone else and ‘go viral’, increase your presence instead by owning who you are and expressing that in an honest, transparent and meaningful way. Then, you can stop wasting your energies trying to ‘crunch the numbers’ and aim to connect on a human-to-human basis with fewer people. That allows you to build your credibility and connections slowly and more organically.
The same approach also applies when you attend a networking event. Stop trying to find clients and start building relationships. Connect at a personal level with one of two people. Listen to them. Ask questions. Respond to their answers and let the conversation develop organically. The best way to make an impression with someone is to let them know you’ve heard them, that you’re interested in them as a human being and not just as a number. Networking is about meeting people who will remember you and refer you on to those who need your services.
Successful Marketing is built on Long-Term Strategies
Communication begins with developing your own unique voice. It’s not something you can achieve in a week or a month. It’s a process that develops as you develop. You can get started on that important journey, by checking out my self-study course here.
It’s one of the best investments quiet, conscientious freelancers and business owners like you can make!
How to be heard in a noisy world that is getting noisier by the nano-second as more and more ‘hot’ tactics and glitz are rolled out? The increasing noise level makes it harder to find a solution to the core question for every solopreneur, freelancer and small business owner: “how can I be heard in a noisy world so that the right audience can easily hear me and find me?”
Why does Everyone Sound like Everyone Else?
However, It’s not just that is getting more difficult to be heard in a noisy world. There’s also something else going on, as Sarah, one of my clients, pointed out recently.
“Why is everyone sounding more and more like a copy-and-paste version of everyone else,” she asked.
She’d just read a new post by a ‘respected’ coaching professional, who she said, “should know better”. (i.e. she’s been in business for some time!).
According to Sarah, she’s now talking about “deets” and “peeps” and her every post is now “a thinly disguised ‘pitch’ that I can see coming from the first sentence.” Then she summed up her frustration:
“I can’t feel the person writing these posts anymore with all the fancy words and tricks, so I’m not going to bother reading them!”
I’ve noticed the same trend, too, and find myself unsubscribing and un-following more and more to what I call ‘template junk’ content.
Why are we Sacrificing our Voice at the Algorithms Altar?
Why are we sacrificing one of our greatest assets – our unique voice – to the algorithms which are constantly changing?
What I mean with ‘voice’ is not just the ‘how’ of writing (style, language, etc.). It’s also about how you show up in your communication – having your own perspective, the topics you choose to write about, the way you interact with the reader, etc. Having a voice is about having a distinctive identity that others can see, feel, sense, identify and hear. It’s about showing up as YOU!
In a world that seems addicted to the automated ‘clicks & likes’ game, isn’t it important to stand back, pause and just be yourself?
The Pressure to Conform in a Noisy World
Being yourself, however, is not so easy in a world where the pressure to conform is enormous.
When clients ask me how to be heard in a noisy world, I encourage them to start the process by developing their voice. The immediate reaction is to question the relevancy of my advice – “what’s my voice got to do with finding clients”. They they hurl a list of reasons why my advice wouldn’t work for them.
This list below includes the most common ones, but it’s certainly not comprehensive:
- No one would want to listen to them if they used their own voice. (If you haven’t tried, how can you know they won’t want to listen?)
- The voices that are seen and heard ‘out there’, i.e. the ones that have high numbers of views & likes, all sound similar. (Numbers don’t automatically convert into paying clients)
- They’re afraid that using their own voice would expose them in a public space, which makes them feel very vulnerable. (If you concentrate on connecting with your own audience, it greatly reduces the ‘dangers’ of being exposed)
- Using the same language as everyone else makes them feel like they belong to the group. And having a sense of belonging is important to them. (Exchanging your identity and individuality in order to fit in, is a very high price to pay)
The Benefits of Developing Your Voice as Your #1 Solution
While the pressure to conform and fit in is huge, it also overshadows the benefits of developing your voice. And it does take courage to take that step.
Not only do you enjoy the freedom to discover your unique voice and express yourself in the way that feels aligned with who you are and what you do, it makes it so much easier for those looking for you to find you. As I’ve already pointed out in relation to your story, your voice is also your USP.
Why Speaking in Your Own Voice Positions You to be Easily Found
Speaking in your own voice is one of the best ways to position yourself to be easily found by those looking for what you offer.
Because your voice acts like an antenna for those on your wavelength. They are the people already tuned into the service or product you provide and how it can help them. When you speak in your own voice, not only does it resonate with the right audience. It automatically positions you as the easily-found expert in your field.
Developing your voice also helps distinguish you from the crowd. It makes you ‘one of a kind’ for the audience looking for someone like you. Your unique voice helps them spot you immediately.
If you’d like to find out more about developing your voice as a key factor in successful business communication check out my self-study course here.Learn More
Stories are key to effective business communication. They engage us emotionally, facilitate better understanding, create meaning and build personal, trustworthy connections. Simple stories amplify all these benefits.
Simplicity: A Navigation Tool in a Complex World
How do simple stories help us communicate more effectively in an increasingly complex and confusing world?
Simplicity is our best navigation tool for many reasons:
- On a practical level, ‘simple’ is user-friendly, i.e. it’s shorter; quicker; it’s easier to remember, understand, evaluate and use
- It’s the outcome of a process that distils complexity into its essentials – without stripping it of substance to create a simplistic, dumbed-down version
- It helps us easily recognise new ideas, systems, products, brands in an increasingly overwhelming and confusing marketplace
Simple Stories Simplify Communication
Simple stories are not just shorter stories. They clarify and refine complex ideas and data, making it easier for an audience to engage with what is being communicated and eventually act on it. The great physicist, Albert Einstein, gave us advice on how to do just that: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”
We are complex human beings who live in an increasingly complex world, so our task is to make complexity simple, not simplistic! Simplistic is a when we dilute the substance of our message to the point that it can be consumed without reflection or question.
Editing, organising and sharpening our ideas are part of a skills-set we can develop and then improve with practice. The benefits of investing time and effort to learn these skills are huge. By making complex material ‘user-friendly’, i.e. simpler, you create immediate access to it, which in turn makes it more relatable, relevant and applicable.
That’s a huge part of my job. When clients present me with a 3/4-page document, I help them create a 2/3-sentence back-story, or a brand stories or a personal profile statement. The work is first of all finding the pattern in all the detail: it’s the pattern that connects it all together. Then creating the simple story to illustrate that pattern.
How to Tell Simple Stories
I. The Story Structure
The structure needs to be simple if you want your story to be simple. That’s easier said than done when most storytelling courses and workshops present beginners with needlessly complex diagrams and structures, while at the same time assuring us we’re all natural-born storytellers!
The story structure is the container for what happens: the details of who, what, when, why, how. The structure creates a pattern that helps us grasp and remember those details. The simplest structure and easiest one to use is created around a linear, temporal pattern:
Before – Turning Point – After
II. The Storytelling Structure
Once we have our story structure we then need a structure to tell that story. The same rule also applies here: the simpler the storytelling structure, the easier it is to communicate the story and the easier it is to receive it.
The most natural and effective structure to communicate information is the one we use every day – conversation, or dialogue. Dialogue is about reciprocal exchange, response and interaction, as opposed to the monologue, which is a one-way form of communication.
Another characteristic of telling simple stories is using simple language. That means getting rid of the jargon and the buzzwords because they act as a barrier to real connection. Replace them with personal, straightforward, simple language that supports and promotes human-to-human connection. Use the same language you would use in a conversation with a good friend.
The Benefits for Business of Making it Simple
How does keeping it simple actually translate into better outcomes for businesses?
The simplicity-index surveys show that simplicity pays. The top brands globally and nationally all share the common feature of offering their customers a simple experience that is communicated as simply as possible. Here’s how Ben Osborn from Siegel+Gale puts it:
“Our research shows us that 55% of consumers are willing to reward brands that make their lives simpler – and penalise those that do not. Simplicity is an important metric for the communications industry because empathy is the cornerstone of the contract between creators and consumers.”
If simplicity pays, how do we recognise it in how other brands communicate and then implement it in our own communication? Start by asking yourself this question:
Do I consciously choose to communicate in a way that is simple, honest, transparent and personal for my audience?
Isn’t it time to simplify?Learn More
Your brand story is not just one story.
You brand is made up of multiple stories and each one plays a crucial role in connecting you with the right audience.
Why do we think of our brand story as a singular story?
Because we are bombarded with advice that reduces branding to a single brand story. Your personal story – “Tell your story!” – is the advice dished out by every branding and storytelling consultant. As I’ve pointed out here, it’s bad advice for a number of reasons.
So, everyone rushes to tell their Brand Story – their Hero’s Journey, a story formula so predictable, it falls straight into the black hole of ‘heard it before’! The most common one is the final instalment of the journey, i.e. how, after many struggles & challenges, you are now successful. And that success is measurable in your current earnings – at least 6 digits, more likely 7 digits.
Are you a unique personal brand or an iteration of a standard template?
If you want to tell an individual personal story, skip the template and tell a story about what makes you unique & what is relevant to your clients.
Here’s one possibility. Tell the story of how you embody your values. For example, a lot of professionals brand themselves as ‘honest’, ‘caring’, ‘authentic’, etc. Instead of making a list of values, choose a value and tells them that story because it actually shows them something about you that could build trust and credibility.
Your personal story is just one story & your brand story is not reducible to that story
Your brand story is where your story intersects with other stories.
It’s also your clients’ story – the story of a problem they struggle with & how it impacts on their business.
It’s also the story of how you can help them solve that problem.
And it includes the outcome you create for them after working together.
Which story will get the attention of your potential clients?
The one in which they find themselves most easily. The one that makes them say, “Yes, that’s me!”, “That’s where I’m stuck!”, “That’s what I want!”
Your personal story is one of the stories that makes up your brand story. If you want to attract a new audience, it’s not the story to lead with.Learn More