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Genuine Competence Increases Your Ability To Influence Others
Remember that the more consistent and congruent you are in every aspect of your life, the more honest and genuine you’re perceived to be. If you believe in your message, you’ll practice what you preach. If you practice what you preach, you’ll be more authentic, and the door of trust will swing open for you. When you possess congruency, there’s no need to manipulate or camouflage.
Trust increases when others can see that your words match your actions. This is called congruence. Agreement and harmony in verbal and nonverbal messages increases your ability to influence. When congruence is lacking, a red flag is raised and, either consciously or subconsciously, your listener will not give you his or her full trust. It’s like the clothes you wear every day. If your clothes match well, usually no one really pays attention to what you’re wearing. If your clothing choices clash and are mismatched, they will be the only thing people notice and remember about you.
As one author put it, “People love someone who seems to believe in what he is doing, who is a man of principle. It doesn’t seem to matter what the principle is, as long as he holds to it against all odds, expresses himself clearly, does not get defensive, and sticks to his story.” Most incongruities are found in our body language. Countless studies demonstrate that when body language is incongruent or in disagreement with the message, the body language will always be believed over the message. You body language must be congruent with your message and must be used to support or enhance your message.
Are you congruent with your history, your last interaction, and your reputation? Are your emotions congruent with your message? What are your audience’s expectations of you and your message? When your past history and your message don’t match, flags of incongruities will wave in your prospects’ faces. Suspicion will be roused and your prospect will start to look for things that are wrong with you or your message. This inconsistency will decrease your ability to gain influence and trust. We are natural lie detectors. When you attempt to fake congruence, you will spend your time and energy trying to fake your message.
Body Language: Attracts or Distracts. Whether we realize it or not, we are constantly reading and being read by others. Even without the utterance of words, the language of the body speaks volumes. Often, interpreting body language is a subconscious thing. We may not make a conscientious effort to think through all the details of why someone has just folded their arms across their chest and narrowed their eyes at us, yet somehow this body language registers subliminally and makes us feel uneasy. The subconscious instantaneously interprets these actions to indicate resistance, suspicion, or spite, even if we have not made a conscious study of the opposing person or their background.
Using body language to its fullest not only involves mastering your own use of outward gestures to create and maintain rapport, but also entails acquiring the ability to read the body language of another person. When you can effectively read body language, you can identify the emotions and discomfort of others. You can see tension and disagreement. You can feel rejection and suspicion. You have to understand that your body language adds to or detracts from your message. In other words, your subconscious gestures and expressions can either help or hurt your ability to persuade others. You can create rapport by understanding and adopting the right body postures and countenances for your prospect.
Everything about you, be it outward or subtle, communicates something to somebody else. The words you use, your facial expressions, what you do with your hands, your tone of voice, and your level of eye contact will determine whether people accept or reject you and your message. To be persuasive, you have to present not only openness, but also authority.
Albert Mehrabian says we are perceived in three ways:
1. 55 percent -- Visually -- (body language)
Other research estimates that as much as 93 percent of your message's impact depends on nonverbal elements. This includes facial expressions, body movement, vocal cues, and proxemics.
Body language and gestures are an innate part of our psyche. There have been many interesting studies conducted on body language and the use of gestures. In one particular experiment, twelve children with perfect vision and twelve children who were blind since birth were observed to see whether either group gestured more than the other. The results showed that the blind children actually gestured just as much as their full-sighted counterparts, even when they knowingly spoke with other blind children. The researchers concluded that gesturing is an innate part of our expressive and communicative patterns, and that speech and body language are highly interconnected.
Furthermore, the researchers asserted that speech and body language also bear strong ties to our thought processes. An article in the American Journal of Psychology discusses how gesturing can serve as a memory aide. Subjects had a more difficult time remembering words when they had to keep their hands holding on to a bar than when their hands were free.
Pennzoil Oil took the Texaco Oil Company to court over Texaco's allegedly interfering with a contract Pennzoil already had with Getty Oil. Throughout the trial, Pennzoil's counsel was accused of trying to sway the jury by encouraging their witnesses to make eye contact and joke with the jurors. To show that they were serious and did not consider the circumstances a joking matter, Texaco's counsel told witnesses not to joke at all and to avoid eye contact with the jurors. Unfortunately, the advice proved to be unwise and cost Texaco dearly in the end. Pennzoil was granted more than $2.5 billion in damages--the largest damage award in U.S. history. Why? Afterwards, jurors expressed distrust toward the witnesses who had avoided eye contact, even going so far as to call them "arrogant" and "indifferent."
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