Communicating with impact

Asking for a pay rise. Pitching a big idea. Challenging other people’s positions. Contributing in meetings. Are your palms getting sweaty at the thought?

Communicating your position with confidence is a work in progress, even for the most seasoned professionals. When you’re in your early career it can feel like a danger zone that leaves us paralysed and wracked with fear. In our Communicating with Impact Workbook, we explore three key areas to master the art of communication:

  • Mindset – build your confidence by managing negative thought patterns
  • Cues – influence others with warmth and competence
  • Plan – prepare for high stakes comments
Mindset – manage the negative thought bias

Your mind can be both your most powerful ally and your worst enemy. Research shows we have around 60,000 thoughts a day and 80% of them are negative, so unwinding negative thoughts that erode our confidence and undermine our impact is crucial.

We can often find ourselves in cognitive/emotive thought loops, which are repeating patterns where thoughts and beliefs produce feelings that affirm our stories, further intensifying our feelings and repeating the cycle indefinitely. As an example:

  • Cognitive / Thought: “I don’t know as much as others in this meeting and if I speak up I’ll look stupid”
  • Emotive / Feeling: Fear, which manifests in a physical response of heart racing and an unfocused mind. These feelings confirm the thought that you don’t have anything of value to say and need to stay quiet, intensifying the feeling of inadequacy and fear of speaking up.
How to break free of this cycle

When you find yourself in the grips of a cognitive/emotive loop, work through these steps:

  • Become aware of the thought loop
  • Accept you are there – without the self-criticism
  • Choose to interrupt the pattern
  • Feel the sensations of the body (this helps complete a feeling rather than ignore)
  • Unwind the thought through inquiry – Byron Katie’s The Work is a great tool

Check out our Communicating with Impact Workbook for some great exercises to explore this mindset piece.

Cues – find a balance between warmth and competence

Extensive research by academic, Vanessa Van Edwards, finds highly influential and charismatic people are magnetic because they have a perfect blend of warmth and competence. They are signalling likeability, trust, power, capability, collaboration and efficiency. Susan Fisk’s research reveals most of us have an imbalance.  If you have too much warmth people don’t respect you or take you seriously, and if you have too much confidence people see you as powerful and credible but intimidating or hard to talk to. Competence without warmth leaves people feeling suspicious.

How to signal warmth and competence

You may have these qualities already but if you aren’t signalling enough warmth and competence, people don’t know how to read you and so distance themselves. Here are four different categories of cues:

  • Body language – makes up a minimum of 60% of how we communicate via non-verbal gestures, facial expression and posture
  • Verbal – the words we use in conversation as well as email, text messages and online
  • Voice tone – volume, pace and cadence have impact
  • Ornamental/visual – includes the clothes we wear, car we drive, zoom backgrounds

Download our Communicating with Impact Workbook for a deeper look at how to signal the right cues for success and assess your own warmth and competence cues.

Plan – prepare for high stakes communication 

Whether it is asking for a promotion, giving constructive feedback or pitching an idea, the planning phase is key. It’s not enough to just prepare what you are going to say, you must understand the why aswell as the how.

In our Communicating with Impact Workbook, we’ve got three of the big communication areas covered:

  • Ask for a payrise: reframe your stories, build an argument and write your script
  • Give and receive feedback: work through a framework that helps you plan your feedback conversations to increase trust and performance
  • Pitching an idea: developing a well-rounded proposal is an artform and a science. Use our template to create impactful presentations to get your ideas heard


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