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Jo Ouston

Jo Ouston from Jo Ouston & Co on how to us natural communication skills to help influence and inspire others

In my last blog we looked at the importance of personal presence. It is when we are comfortable being ourselves, we are able to use our natural communication skills to build relationships with people. Now we explore the potential for using those skills to help influence and inspire those around you.  

The first thing to remember is the importance of the relationship between the heart and head – the art of striking a balance between ‘how’ we communicate (our personal presence), the values we hold and the intellectual content of what we are saying. 

We achieve buy-in from those around us by using our physical presence to support our message.  

Sadly, it has become all too common for people to think that a quick course to learn a few body language tricks will ensure they give off the right signals so that everyone will fall under their spell and do exactly as they suggest.  

Walking the Tight Rope

The key to success is achieving a balance between head and heart. Someone who is highly intellectual with a valid point to make can struggle to influence others if they lack the presence to make themselves heard. Equally someone who is an adept communicator may seem lightweight or lacking in substance if they have not understood a client’s business or fail to grasp a colleague’s priorities. If you are not properly prepared for a meeting or seem off balance in some way, those around you will pick it up instantly.  

Take a high-wire performer at the circus. The acrobat is poised for performance, high above the audience. In his hand he carries his pole - one end representing the heart, the other the head. As he begins to walk the tight rope balancing the pole, the audience is excited but not afraid. If the acrobat really loses his balance, frantically trying to steady himself, the audience senses the fear, responding with gasps of concern. The skilled artist can pretend to wobble but the audience senses instinctively the difference between play acting and real danger. We respond in a similar way in meetings or at presentations. We can sense when it isn’t going well even though we may not know why.

Intelligent Interaction 

One of the key skills to achieving this balance is ‘active listening’. We worry about what we want to say next and so miss useful information and non-verbal cues being communicated by the other person. Listening carefully and responding with thoughtful questions and comments will enhance your intellectual contribution and you will quite naturally appear more poised and confident.  

Keeping it Simple 

One last but important point – communication doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective.  These days the art of communication is over complicated by the numerous hints, tips and tricks on how to manipulate what others will think or feel. You can lose sight of the purpose of the interaction. Remember that sometimes a simple question to get a straightforward answer is all that is required! 


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