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Words have meaning - Behaviour determines creditility

Ed Shiller

Ed's Blog

If you think that giving great interviews hinges on what you say, think again. Without doubt, the literal meaning of the words you use in written or oral communications will have an effect on the people you are trying to influence. But equally – if not more – important is the meaning conveyed by your nonverbal communication.

How you say something when communicating orally – your tone of voice, inflection, eye movement, body language – or how you use grammar, syntax and vocabulary in both oral and written communications greatly affects your credibility, your likeability and, hence, your persuasiveness.

The full character of written and oral communications is determined less by a conscious intellectual process than by a manifestation of attitudes and perceptions we hold, not only in our conscious mind, but also in the deep recesses of our unconscious mind. By the same token, to communicate effectively you need to appeal not only to the intellect and the enlightened self-interest of those you are trying to influence, but also to their emotions and unconscious mindsets and attitudes.

When thusly harnessed, communications is a powerful tool that can be wielded for good or for ill. Which one will depend on whether the communicator generates perceptions to inspire action that will truly benefit both communicator and audience or inspires action that will only benefit the communicator, either to the indifference or at the expense of the audience. Or as media guru Marshall McLuhan put it, “A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding.” Truly effective communications – of which media interviews form an integral part – do not pound points of view into malleable minds; instead, they foster understanding that leads to the formulation and adoption of enlightened points of view.

This communications dynamic, which constitutes a segment of the emerging science of psycholinguistics, can be summed up with this modification of another, more iconic McLuhanism: If the medium is the message, then you are the medium. Here is why. Your words will convey information and viewpoints – after all, words do have meaning. But whether the words you utter are believed and how your words are interpreted are determined by the overall behaviour of the spokesperson.


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