Jennie Marshall | 20 November 2014
With the wave of retail festive adverts now going head to head to be crowned ‘the best Christmas advert of 2014’, take a moment to think about what your personal brand advertises to other people. Would it win any awards?
When it comes to our personal brand, communication is a key yet tricky thing. Most people think it only pertains to what we say. What we don't say is often overlooked.
I know amazing trainers who can captivate a crowd of 3,000 people, but can't return a phone call. Their compelling ability as a speaker is great, but when you can't return a call or email, you make people feel unimportant. On the flip side, I have friends who are brilliant writers but they'd rather wrestle a rabid herd of reindeers than do a video chat. It's great to be so eloquent with words but it's harder for people to know you without seeing a face and hearing a voice.
Others of us embrace using more holistic forms of communication and are proud to feel well-rounded. Regardless of what camp you fall into, you need to ask yourself one question.
What do your communication habits say about you? And more importantly, what are you communicating to others - even unintentionally?
The truth is, communication is an art form.
It takes years of practice and discipline to be a good communicator and even then, the hard truth is that some of us are just natural-born communicators while others of us are not.
While most people think of communication only as spoken, written, or typed words - it's easy to forget the more nuanced art form encompassing non-verbal communication. Let me put it like this: if a picture is worth a thousand words, when someone pictures you, what words do they see?
Back in 1993, Revlon launched a brand of women's perfume called Exclamation. The tagline boasted, "Make a statement without saying a word." Of course, the idea was that even how you smell says something about you.
It's absolutely true. You are always communicating nonverbally, but this powerful idea is too-often overlooked.
This is the easiest tip on the list because it costs nothing, it's always in fashion, it transcends language and it communicates powerfully. It is amazing how easy it is to forget to smile during dates, job interviews and client appointments and so on.
Unless you are The Joker, when you smile, others will generally feel more at ease. You will seem approachable, more trustworthy, and easier to engage in conversation. Not only that, but you will seem more likable.
So put away that concentration face and just smile.
Make Eye Contact
Eye contact is a powerful nonverbal communication tool. Did you know that dogs, especially the aggressive ones, perceive direct eye contact as a threat to their dominance? The same is true for other species of animals. Yes, even animals understand how important eye contact is.
For humans, eye contact can be interpreted differently from culture to culture, but in the UK, it is a sure sign of a confident, assertive personality. You've probably noticed that the opposite is also true. When someone avoids direct eye contact with you, you immediately sense they are unsure, afraid, or even lying to you.
I know people who have a habit of breaking eye contact during conversation. It's maddening. I become focused on how someone is communicating as opposed to what they are communicating. During an important meeting, this can be a deal-killer.
Try to make direct eye contact a habit. Note what I'm advocating is not the same as staring. You want to communicate confidence and friendliness, not creepiness. If you need some help getting it right, practice during casual conversations with your spouse or trusted friend.
Lastly, be aware of how you carry yourself. Do you slouch in your chair when you sit? Do you walk with your head down? Do you stand with your shoulders and back hunched forward? All of these are posture faux pas that reflect negatively on your personal brand. They can communicate a lack of self-confidence and even laziness.
Check your posture: This one is a challenge for me, but I try to be aware of and constantly correct my posture-even as I type this. Sitting upright not only communicates positively about you, but it will also save you a trip to the chiropractor. Slouching and sitting hunched over strains our muscles and can cause misalignments in your skeletal system.
Keep your head up: You will have watched various scenes on the TV and in movies when a character feels sad or dejected and walks away with their head hung low. It's funny when it happens on the screen, but not so much when you do it unintentionally because that's just how you roll. Unless you just did something really bad or are a wanted criminal on the run, there's no reason to hang your head. Look up! Visually engage with the world around you. Your feet aren't that beautiful, anyway.
Go Make a (Nonverbal) Statement: Take stock. Does your personal brand need a makeover? Do your nonverbal cues say something about you that you'd rather not say? If so, the good news is that these are relatively easy problems to fix.
But, as is often true, the first step is to be aware of where you fall short.
Commit to making your brand a key feature of everyday life, just as the various festive adverts are at this time of the year. After all if those adverts sell the dream of the retailer, you can sell yourself in the same way.