What are you really communicating to your prospects and customers? And what are they communicating back to you? It’s not as simple as you might think …

If you have ever been on a webinar or a training session with me, you may have heard me say: “What you say, matters.” I must now amend that statement to: “What you say, matters. How you say it, matters more.”

Dr. Albert Mehrabian, the author of Silent Messages, conducted several studies on nonverbal communication and found that only 7 percent of any message is conveyed through actual words. The rest of the communication, or 93 percent, is a combination of vocal elements and nonverbal elements such as facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc.

Today there seems to be some disagreement among experts as to exactly what percentage really is nonverbal. The bottom line is, whatever the real statistic, a significant portion of communication with other human beings is nonverbal.

Most human beings are quite adept at reading and interpreting nonverbal communication. If there is dissonance between your words and your nonverbal cues, look out!

What this means for someone that is communicating over the phone, whether with prospects or existing customers, is that a large portion of your communication will not be the words that you say, but rather how you say them. What you communicate is framed by your tone and delivery of those words.

This was demonstrated to me remarkably clearly in a conversation that I had with a vendor. I was under a very tight time crunch to create a landing page on my website. I had no time to write copy, so I contracted a marketing agency to fill that function. I initially met with the copywriter who quickly emailed me a first draft of the project. I asked for a handful of changes. Two days later I received an email, marked “Final Version” with a document that included only half of the changes that I had requested and that was filled with typos, grammatical errors and punctuation errors. I called and also fired off a complaint email to the president of the company.

The next business day, the president of the marketing agency called me to resolve the issue. This was a memorable conversation, not for the words that were spoken, but rather for the way they were spoken. I’m sure this business owner thought she was businesslike and professional. I thought she was arrogant, dismissive and rude. I said something to her about her tone and she flatly told me I was wrong.

Ultimately, this business owner did solve the problem. In a certain way, she solved it in my favor. I received the copy that I needed for my website and she also reduced the fee. I should have been a happy customer, but I was not. I was now unhappy, but for a totally different reason. I was truly shocked and offended by the tone of our conversation. This had nothing to do with the words that the business owner used and it had everything to do with her tone and delivery. It was not what she said – it was how she said it.

It is ironic that although this business owner bent over backwards to help me, she then shot herself in the foot because of the way she spoke to me.

What you say, matters. How you say it, matters even more.

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