Inspired By This Year’s Presidential Election: 3 Communication Strategies For Lawyers
The 2016 American presidential election has been on every television screen and news website for the better part of the last year — and it’ll probably stay in the public dialogue for much of the next year! At this point, with Election Day looming, nearly everyone has an opinion, for better or for worse, on the politicians running. Whether you agree with their policies, positions, and strategies, however, you may be able to learn a few things from this year’s candidates. Luan de Burgh of the de Burgh Group, which specializes in training professionals, especially attorneys, to communicate, present, and develop businesses, has three politician-inspired lessons for in-house counsel.
Focus on making others feel significant
Politicians have turned the commonly-known notion of “connection” or “chemistry” into an art form of making someone feel as if they are the only person in the room. This type of personal connection helps politicians garner dedicated followers, who feel they know the politician on a deeper level. In-house counsel can use this technique to have more candid and productive conversations with management, executives, key business owners and fellow counsel. According to de Burgh, to achieve this connection you need to: “First, make direct eye contact. Then, during the conversation, focus on the person talking 100%. Finally, listen and demonstrate interest by asking relevant questions.”
This sounds simple, but takes practice to make it seem a natural part of your conversation style. For beginners, de Burgh explains, “the real skill is listening to listen, versus listening to respond. Not focusing on your next response, will make the other person feel important. Don’t listen with your mouth!” For example, if the other person uses a phrase to describe their issue, you should repeat that phrase throughout the conversation. “This demonstrates to the other person that you have listened to what they have said. When we feel listened to, we feel as if we are important to the other person,” de Burgh says.
Find your crown and wear it
Even when the Queen isn’t physically wearing her crown, she always walks upright, with grace, as if she is balancing a crown on her head. “I have been encouraging lawyers to ‘wear their invisible crown’ ever since,” says de Burgh. “I tell students to imagine they have a piece of string attached to the top of their heads, pulling them toward the ceiling.” This helps them align their spine and stand taller, like the Queen.
How can attorneys translate this technique to their own careers? “Demonstrating confidence is extremely effective when you want to have an impact on others,” explains de Burgh. Wearing your crown from the moment you walk into a meeting room or presentation, to the moment you sit down, gives the impression that you are confident in the messages you are communicating, and are both present and engaged. Your audience will sense this confidence, and be more likely to listen and agree with you, as well as, be more honest and open. This technique can also be used when handling difficult negotiations or problem-solving with your team. Exuding grace and competence will instill a sense that you have control over the situation, making others more receptive to your arguments, and leading to more productive conversations.
Master the smile, point, and wave technique
If you have seen a few debates on TV you have most certainly seen at least one politician smile, look at a distant audience member, point at them, and wave, as if they have a personal connection with certain members of the crowd. This “smile, point, and wave” technique is used to engage the crowd, look friendly, and come across as widely-supported. Although this level of showmanship works on the national stage, de Burgh recommends a more toned-down approach for attorneys. “Lawyers can utilize this particular technique more subtly, and as effectively, without the actual pointing when speaking to a large crowd of people,” says de Burgh. Because many in-house counsel find themselves at the intersection of law and business, this skill can be especially helpful during large conferences or industry presentations.
De Burgh recommends that when speaking, especially to a large audience, lawyers maintain the difficult task of maintaining eye contact. De Burgh explains, “The best thing you can do is divide the audience into 6 to 8 blocks. Treat each block as if it were one individual person and then look in their general direction.” Because of the distance, most people in that block will have the feeling that you are looking directly at them. This will make their experience of your talk more personal,” continues de Burgh. “In turn, you will feel more well-received as a speaker and have a much better speaking experience.” For more confident public speakers, throwing in a few nods or waves can lead to a more politician-like effect, which can be helpful when making influential speeches.
Any lawyer seeking a confidence boost in presentations or conversations can benefit from these strategies. According to de Burgh, however, these politician-inspired strategies shouldn’t be used in a showboating or disingenuous way. The main goal should be to present yourself as influential, confident, and relatable. With some practice, you’ll be on your way to connecting with others all while wearing your invisible crown!
This article was originally published on Above the Law.