September 24, 2009

Words and actions in alignment

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I was reading an article on The Positivity Blog, when I was struck with #9 on the list of Gandhi’s Top 10 Fundamentals for Changing the World:

9. Be congruent, be authentic, be your true self.

Followed by two quotes by Gandhi:

"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."

"Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well."

I'm a big fan of authenticity. In fact, I'm one of those coaches who will tell you to "be yourself," or "just be," a concept that my pal and fellow trainer Laura Bergells thinks is poppycock.

I've written articles about how to discover your own personality and style, how to discover what makes you unique, and falling in love with the real you.

But these Gandhi quotes sent me in a different direction today. A direction that Albert Mehrabian was going in all those years ago!

What I hope to be as a speaker and to see in a speaker is a person who is congruent. When "what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." When a speaker is congruent, they gain trust.

A large part of engaging an audience and making your message memorable is in gaining trust with the audience. When, in simple terms, your words and your actions don't match, there is a disconnect. When what you say and what you do don't match, the audience is confused. The audience may perceive you to be insincere, they may perceive you to be hiding something, or they may not know what to think at all.

But they will not connect with you, and they probably will not trust you.

As Laura Bergells points out, human beings are complex. Frequently, we can't even make sense of our own thoughts and actions, because knowing and understanding ourselves is a lifelong process. For a person to be completely congruent all the time, with thoughts, words and actions in alignment, that person would have to be completely self-actualized.

However, to reach a desired level of trust with an audience, congruence is critical. Don't portray yourself as open, warm and approachable onstage and then run out the door the minute the presentation is over, for example.

Authenticity and congruence go hand in hand. Being yourself means portraying yourself as you are, showing the world who you are in words and in actions. When your message and your person are aligned, you are more believable, more trustworthy and more credible. And why would you want it any other way?

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2 comments. Please add yours! :

Business Communications Training said...

I am a big fan of the Positivity Blog and this one.

If you give a good presentation, it is hard to try and acknowledge everyone that may want to speak with you. That does not always happen so do your best to speak with at least 2/3 people together or individually. You can slip out of one conversation and invite another. Its all fair game but do not stay too long! Leave them asking for more!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks for your comment, BCT! I've been in that situation before and, while I try to talk to everyone, it's just not possible to have one-on-ones all the time. It's just like any networking event; find a way to keep people moving, adding to the group as others leave, etc. Then hand out cards and say you'll be happy to follow up by e-mail!

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