August 1, 2014

It’s not what but how you say it

Eye contact, posture, tone of voice and choice of words all determine whether the message you intended to convey was actually heard by your target listeners.

Whether you’re at the bottom or top of the company ladder, your words — and how you deliver them — make a difference.

The higher you are in the management ranks, the bigger the difference, but the same rules for effective communication apply to all.

Barbara Teicher, a Kansas City area consultant, counsels clients to videotape themselves to check for eye contact, posture, absence of fidgeting and tone of voice. She says to be especially concerned about their vocal “temperature.” Do they sound warm, cool or cold?

Beyond the delivery basics, she focuses on the nuances of good communication: Project confidence, but don’t dominate. Ask questions. Seek input. Praise others (even if means saying something nice to your least favorite colleague).

If asking for something, whether it’s a raise for yourself or extra work from your employees, be sure to explain the reason for the request. And frame it in terms of what’s good for the group or the organization, not just you.

Teicher writes in her new guidebook, “It’s How You Say It,” that it’s vital to be sensitive to the nature of workplace relationships, especially if they’ve changed or if they’re on thin ice. It’s easier to communicate with people you like or relate to; it takes more work to use good eye contact and tone with people you don’t.

She uses the acronym VAST as a communication guide. You have better odds with your listeners if you make them feel Valued, Accepted, Secure and Trusted.

Managers may have more power in setting VAST moods, but entry- and mid-level workers also can raise their standings and likelihood of being truly heard when they make it clear they have the group’s best interests at heart.

In the end, it’s never all about you. It’s about you creating a “we” environment so listeners are more likely to welcome what you have to say.

To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to Follow her online at and

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