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Yes, It’s About Communication, But Optics Too

Actually, the ability to say the right thing in the right way and at the right time is an art. For years, executives have paid coaches to teach them how to find, use and deliver the right words, gestures and expressions for everything from public appearances to keynote speeches and corporate board meetings.

And then, when introduced to social media and electronic media, they had to learn the art of sitting in front of a camera, looking directly into the lens seemingly talking to no one, and delivering the goods as if they were in front of a packed auditorium.

Some did it well, appearing completely natural and convincing. After all, their firm is depending on them. Others, well, they didn’t rehearse nearly enough. No pressure, right?

Words and Gestures Define You

Little children, for example, watch and listen to everything their parents and siblings say and do. They eventually pick up certain words, attitudes, expressions or gestures, as well as thinking and reasoning patterns too. That’s when it starts. Adults are still influenced today.

When someone says a person is “articulate,” that is a high compliment. Being clear, concise and coherent is learned gift, and an articulate speaker is usually pleasant to listen to.

Think back to the days of attending retirement planning seminars hosted by an advisory team. Perhaps you didn’t know much about them but liked the topic they were presenting.

Are you any different than anyone else in the audience when it comes to first impressions?

You all will: like/dislike, trust/distrust, believe/disbelieve what is being said and how it is being said, to some degree, only because of what you are seeing, hearing and feeling.

The same is true in today’s webinars. Your eyes are judging and sizing up the individuals, but the neurons in your brain are all fired up asking a thousand questions: “Does this make sense? Is this the truth? Do I need this? Do I like the way this person speaks? Is he or she credible? Could I work with this person? What if I make a mistake? Should I meet with them?”

How he or she presents himself, herself, and their firm, are major factors in your levels of comfort and interest. If what you heard piqued your interests and your senses, and they articulated the content properly, you might decide move forward in setting up an appointment with them to talk about your situation.

The “Absent-Minded Professor” Syndrome

Let’s say you are sitting in the examining room for the first time in your new doctor’s office. After 15 minutes, there is a quick two-to-three knock on the door and in he walks. “Good Morning,” he says without making eye contact. He has tousled hair, an unshaven face, and disheveled clothes. And then he asks, “So, let’s see … um … John – I mean, Jake. Hmm … how is your sciatica? Is it any better?” Since you don’t have and have never had sciatica, you might think to yourself: “Well, Einstein was a genius and disheveled too.” Or, you might think, ”Get with the program, will ya?” Your doctor could very well be a genius, but the optics and first impression were unquestionably bad – but not unredeemable.

Everyone makes mistakes, but in the 21st century age of intellect and internet, the “absent-minded professor” persona doesn’t work. And it most certainly doesn’t work with medicine or finances. People know what remorse feels like on a few different levels. They know when they shouldn’t have bought something, said something, or gotten involved with someone.

Obviously, our doctor is an exaggerated example of a larger important point. Notice how inappropriate it is to simply gloss over the situation, to be unprepared, in a hurry, not thinking, knowing or choosing the right words – essentially, not “being in the moment.” Was the doctor thinking about something more important?  It’s possible, but untimely.

If we make a mistake at Hefren-Tillotson, we most certainly will apologize. As the late Bill Tillotson used to say, “Admit when you’re wrong, and apologize when it’s in order.” We have a deep respect for the individual and a strong belief in integrity in every thought and action. You can bet we will own up to any mistake or oversight and correct it.

“You Say It Best When You Say Nothing At All”

Ronan Keating’s powerful lyrics captured the simplest and most powerful tool: silence. 

In Japan, the power of silence is recognized in the concept of haragei (belly talk), which suggests that the best communication is when you don’t speak at all. But silence doesn’t have to be negative. Silence can also mean thinking.

In conversation, the other person might take a few seconds to respond to a question. They are not being rude; they are thinking. These folks structure their thoughts and words. They choose their words carefully before speaking. Common courtesy is to not interrupt them. Give them their space. When they do speak, it is usually worth the wait.

Unfortunately, silence is also a classic negotiation tactic meant to disarm the other person to feel awkward and uncomfortable. “He who speaks first loses” is the old sales adage. Still considered old school 20th century worn and crusty, some salespeople use it today.

Experts say whenever you are faced with an uncomfortable situation, pause for three to nine seconds before responding or say, “I’m going to think about it and get back to you.” You will regain power. Chances are, the salesperson’s response will determine if you get back to them at all. Great salespeople learn to take a ‘no’ before they can enjoy a ‘yes.’

Clearly, words matter. At Hefren-Tillotson, we choose our words, and everything we do, very carefully. You’ll get straight talk with no jargon. We’ll take our time and encourage you to take yours. We are committed to exceptional client service and harnessing our full range of resources to help you achieve your unique financial goals. And we would be happy to assist you. For more information, contact us today.

DISCLAIMER: Past performance does not predict future results. This report is based on data obtained from sources we believe to be reliable. Hefren-Tillotson does not, nor any other party, guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this report or make any warranties regarding results obtained from its usage. All opinions and estimates included in this report constitute the firms judgment as of the date of this report and are subject to change without notice. This report is for informational purposes only and is not intended as an offer or solicitation to buy or sell the securities herein mentioned.

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