I don’t often open a blog post with a disclaimer, but I feel the need to this time: I honor your right to your political views and I have no interest in changing or influencing those views. What I want to do is use the national stage to show you how we leaders really communicate—whether they know it or not.
The ten men in the prime time Republican debate each has his detractors and supporters. Each has his own personal style. The key is whether that style supports or becomes their message.
Fifteen minutes into the debate, I polled the people I was watching with and asked their opinion of the candidates. Here’s a snapshot of comments:
- Wearing his father’s suit
- Using his brother’s body language
- Likable smile
- Stiff body language. Didn’t look comfortable
- The hair could embarrass the country on the world stage
- Wide open and putting it all out there
- Squinty and pouty
- Says crazy stuff but really believes in what he says
- Looks like a basset hound
- Overly theatrical tone
- Rumpled and disheveled
- Comfortable in his own skin
- Robotic body language
- Whiny, preaching tone
- Oldest looking candidate
- Angry tone
- Five o’clock shadow, pasty skin
- Did he forget to comb his hair?
- Mad scientist
- Wonky glasses
- More grown up than four years ago
I’m not picking on any of the candidates, just reflecting the perceptions they were creating among some watching. Again, politics aside, here’s the powerful insight: The people watching the debates spent twice as much time looking for evidence to support their initial perception of each candidate.
First perception isn’t everything, but it is the starting point. As a leader, as a communicator if you start your communication way off track with your body language, your appearance, and or your tone of voice, then you will spend far more time trying to get your real message, your intended message, back on track, then you could have spent working on your body language, appearance, and tone of voice in the first place.
Know what your message is.
Focus on delivering that message before you open your mouth.
Once you have that nailed, then start focusing on what you want to say.