Guest AuthorRaja Jamalamadaka

You dont need to be charismatic to be a good communicator – you need to just focus on the 2Q’s of communication

By | Raja Jamalamadaka | Industry speaker | Neuroscience coach | Marshall Goldsmith awardee | Author | LinkedIn Top voice | IIT | Harvard

In the dead of the night, a handsome sharp-dressed man is chasing a tall portly man at full speed. As the tall man reaches the edge of what looks like a 1000-meter deep valley, he stops just centimeters away from the edge of the cliff, turns around, pulls out a gun and fires. The handsome man ducks and escapes into the darkness. Gun shots – One, Two, three followed by pin-drop silence. Total darkness. As the audience’s hearts pound, the handsome man, all of a sudden, lands a taekwondo spinning kick from the rear. As the tall man hangs onto edge of the cliff moments away from death, the handsome man introduces himself: My name is Bond, James Bond. The time? Midnight and 007 seconds.

The director of every James Bond movie – and for that matter, every successful communicator – knows the power of communicating messages just the right way to keep the audience engaged. If stories are so well received , why do so few communicators succeed in keeping their audience spellbound? What techniques are the more successful communicators using?

Quality of message

The human brain is an incredibly busy organ. Amidst the cacophony of activities that vie for its attention every second, the brain chooses to focus on those activities that interest more and more senses –sight, sound, feel, taste, smell and emotions. And therein lay the secret to communication quality. Communicators who narrate stories such that they can engage as many senses of the audience as possible turn out to be the most effective communicators.

Let’s understand with an example.

Suppose you want to educate your audience consisting of families on cancer prevention.

Scenario 1: If you present a PowerPoint deck with facts on cancer to your audience. Your discuss statistics, explain “why” and lay out a detailed plan for execution. The audience “listens” to the story – just one sense the listening one is engaged. Among the zillion parts in the brains of the audience, JUST ONE is engaged – That’s it. “Death by PowerPoint” results as the audience attention soon wanes and the speaker fails to engage the audience. 

Scenario 2: You tell a story of a couple with 10 year-old kid. The father, diagnosed with cancer one day, struggles through the financial challenges while battling the pains of chemotherapy, hair loss and nausea. You take a pause for a few seconds and then continue with the story. The family struggles with emotional upheavals. Eventually, the father survives the scare and shares his story.

What happens in Scenario 2 to your audience brains? The audience listens to the story and can relate to this couple since their backgrounds match. The painful stories of patients lead to a deeper emotional connect. As the audience sees the father describing the nausea resulting from any smell, they feel nauseated too. The pain and gyrations of the patient make them feel the pain too. The well-timed pause helps the audience integrate all the sense (sight, smell, hear, feel) and understand the big picture of the story as a whole. The eventual success of the patient leaves them relieved. The final story of the cancer survivor adds a logical twist. The combination of logic and relatable emotions leads to the formation of long term memories.

Why is story 2 more effective? The story activated emotions, logic and almost every sense of the audience (sight, sound, feel, nausea- driven smell, logic, emotions) leading to thoroughly engaged audience and stronger message relatability.

Quantity of message

There is very important link between NUMBER of time a message is delivered and its impact on audience.

Human brains are – for want a better word –negativity detection machines.  Once ANY message enters the brain, the FIRST filter it has to pass through is the negativity filter (The positivity detection filter is way deeper). Even the slightest trace of negativity detected is enough to send the brain into a tailspin. Worse, brain research shows that a negative message is FIVE times more effective in influencing the brain than a positive one.

The upshot? The audience is likely to react FIVE time more to even the slightest perceived negative message than to a positive one. 

Said differently, effective communicators message an important point FIVE times before they can expect the audience to catch it. Any less than FIVE times and (even with the best quality message) the negative circuitry of the audience will latch itself on to the surrounding rumors leading to a disengaged workforce.

Optimal communication is better than over or under-communication.

How do you message so many times without boring the audience? Here is where good communicators leverage various channels –

1.    Verbally in a meeting

2.    Written in a blog

3.    Experiential through workshops

4.    Pictorially through videos or animations

5.    Fun way through Games

Such multiple channels strengthen the message recall without diluting the quality.

These 2Q’s of communication are vital to effective communication.

Communication is the core skill of every human being and especially of every leader. Using the right quality and quantity is the key to becoming a wise leader. Plato said it right

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Republished with permission and originally published at  Raja Jamalamadaka’s LinkedIn

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