In an instant, you can change your mind.
You change the impression you had of someone, or you decide something is not a good idea after all. Politics is full of these moments.
General David Patraeus had to resign after being caught in an extra-marital affair. In a moment, questions arose about his military judgment. If he were so unwise as to have an affair, and leave an easily detected electronic trail, what other mistakes could he have made? In a moment, beliefs about his worthiness shifted.
Supporters of Barack Obama watched helplessly during the first debate of the 2012 election as he showed a decidedly un-presidential demeanor and lost credibility among the undecided voters.
Rival Mitt Romney also had his moment that evening, as he appeared “presidential” (whatever that means) for the first time during the campaign. In a moment, the performance of both changed the direction of movement of the campaign. Suddenly it appeared possible that Romney might actually win.
In France, in the first six months of François Hollande’s presidency saw his popularity dramatically drop to a 36% approval rating. As I watched his grueling official press conference at the end of the first six months, lasting over two and a half hours, François Hollande had his moment.
“I can understand the doubts that have been expressed. The only valid question in my eyes is not the state of public opinion today but the state of France in five years’ time.” He successfully reframed the issues of the day: Today is not what counts. Popularity doesn’t matter — results over the long term are what matters.
Moments matter in communication
Everything you say and do affects the emotional state of other people. Everything you say and do determines what they believe about you and your whole organization. The above examples illustrate these “Power Principles”.
But let’s think about everyday communication — what moments have you had that created a positive or negative impression? Was that your intention? How can you avoid the missteps that leave a trail of damaged or broken relationships?
How to Succeed in Your Key Moments
Here are some tips on mastering the “moment”:
- Take a look at what you are doing: If your actions were known, how would they affect your credibility? Would people still trust you? Would they still respect you? Would they still like you?
- Assess risks: Sometimes you have to do or say things that risk upsetting others or making you unpopular. Ask yourself, who will benefit from this? How can I say or do this in a respectful way? I recently emailed some colleagues about what I felt was a lack of content in their presentation — I risked hurting their feelings, but I felt the opportunity to improve would be lost if I didn’t say what I felt. And I thought they could do a better job on their upcoming book if they got some input. I will see how they respond.
- Take feedback seriously: The worst mistakes are often made by people who believe they are better, more important or more knowledgeable than others. If we dismiss what others tell us, then we lose the opportunity to continuously improve. People who are highly Internal or Macho (Please see my article the Macho Test) often refuse to consider any opinion different from their own. I hate being criticized, but I know that once I lick my wounds and get over my hurt feelings, there is usually something really useful that I need to incorporate.
- Be what you aspire to be: Social scientist Amy Cuddy revealed the link between body language and your own beliefs about yourself. Want to be more confident? Sit or walk confidently for 2 minutes. That’s all it takes.
- Adopt helpful beliefs: I like to believe that even if they don’t look like it, most people want to have fun. Is it true? I don’t care.
Shelle Rose Charvet is president of persuasion skills specialist, Success Strategies.
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