The Other 93 Percent


I recently returned from a wonderful week in the Algarve with my family.

One of the best aspects of running my own business is the freedom it allows for me to spend time with my children, both when I am at home and when we spend time together abroad. As a father I get to see and hear how my children develop, how they use language, how they approach problems, how they win and how they deal with losing.

A week in the sun with no internet and plenty of time by the pool watching both of my children become more and more confident is an absolute joy that I know I wouldn’t have if I followed the path of working for someone else.
I mention my children in this week’s blog post because they demonstrated to me, beautifully, how little language matters in the formation of new friendships and the building of rapport.

Before we went my children articulated a lot of concern about making new friends in a foreign country. When I told them that they would be making friends with people who don’t speak English (at least as a first language) then the response I got (from my 5 year old son) was “But I am only just practicing English! How can I speak another language?” and “But what if I can’t make any friends?”

I had more confidence in them than they did.

At first when we arrived by the pool, they started looking for other children who spoke English. Our hotel was not a hotspot for British tourists so there were not that many children who did.

It was my son who made a Portugese friend first. They united through the medium of the ball in the pool and played together every day that we sat by the pool. Very soon my daughter found her first Portugese friend through the medium of diving into the pool. That is the way the rest of the week proceeded.

I call this the magic of communication because what seems impossible suddenly becomes not only possible, but very easy.

When we first meet people, or walk into a networking meeting or sales pitch, we concentrate most of our effort on the language we are going to use when we meet.

If Mehrabian and Ferris are right (and I believe that they are in relation to first impressions) when they say that only 7% of successful communication is down to the words we use, then we are concentrating on the wrong things. Of course, prepare your elevator pitch, but be present and be observant. As children we do this naturally. As grown-ups we often forget. In business, this is the difference that makes the difference to your bottom line.

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