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BLOGIt’s not what you say, it’s what they see

by Randall CraigFiled in: Blog, Communication, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Management, Skills DevelopmentTagged as:

Who doesn’t remember the old adage “Do as I say, not as I do”? For today’s sophisticated manager, this expression is certainly not appropriate. But how about “It’s not what you say, it’s what you do”? This variation is better, as it focuses on action. Furthermore, when you do and say the same things, you develop credibility with your workmates. The reason why is simple: no hypocrisy.

To improve your effectiveness though, even this is not enough.

Before opening your mouth or hitting the “send” button on an email, put yourself in the shoes of your audience: how would each person interpret what you said? And more important, how would each person interpret your actions? Before making a sales presentation, think how would each person on the prospect’s side of the table interpret your words? And when you are interviewing for a job, focus on how your answers will be interpreted.

When it comes to communication, interpretation is in the mind of the listener, not in the intentions of the speaker. When it comes to managing effectively, it’s not what you say, it’s what they see that will make a difference.


This week, for any high-stakes conversations, make sure they truly understand what you are saying, by asking them to summarize their understanding of your words.

Personal insight #1: This same concept applied beyond the job as well.  Too often, people will find themselves in hot water with their significant other, their family, and their friends.  When a seemingly simple conversation causes great offence, clearly there is a problem with the interpretation.

Personal insight #2:  When this happens, it really is your fault.  If you have something important to say, the onus is on you to make sure that your word choice, tone of voice, etc, conveys precisely what you mean.

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