There is a fine line between opining and whining says Lindsay Taylor

When you feel very strongly about something it can be easy to let your emotions get the better of you and by doing so you can lose or dilute the impact of sharing your opinion.

There’s an art to putting forward and sharing your opinion in a way that lands with the best impact. Notice I’ve used the word “share” here – this is about sharing your opinion not enforcing your opinion on someone else – it’s about respecting the fact that not everyone will have the same opinion as you.

The following guidelines will help you put forward your opinion with impact.

1. Breathe!

When you feel strongly about something this may show in your fast-paced breathing, body language and pace of talking. You need to get the balance right here between sharing your opinion with “passion” without appearing flustered, harassed or “bulldozing”. By focusing on maintaining even, steady breathing this will help enormously.

2. Ground yourself and be assertive

Plant your feet firmly on the ground and ensure your body language is assertive – so match the level of someone else (if they are standing, you stand, if they are sitting, you sit). Open the palms of your hands and maintain steady, gentle eye contact with the person you are talking to. Your tone of voice needs to be assertive too with an even-paced, steady rhythm that emphasises the important words or phrases at a volume that is audible to your audience (without shouting).

3. Favour curiosity over judgment

Human nature is such that we tend to “pre judge” others based on our own experience and beliefs – put aside any prejudgments you make and instead be curious. Curiosity is the foundation to all learning and opens our mind to ensure we are more receptive and aware in any situation.

4. Acknowledge someone else’s opinion

Not everyone will have the same opinion as you. We are all unique human beings with individual experiences, beliefs, upbringing, knowledge and learning. Acknowledge that someone else may have a different opinion to you eg “I understand you have/may have a different opinion here and I’m sure, like me, you appreciate that we’re all different.”

5. Seal it with a KISS! (Keep It Short & Simple)

Cut through any jargon by using simple language that can be instantly understood.

6. Explain your reasons for having the opinion that you do

Eg “This is my opinion because in my experience X has happened…” or “I’m basing my opinion on…”

7. Tailor your language to suit the person you are delivering your message to

Learn about VAK systems. Did you know that whilst we access all five senses to “make sense” of our worlds, in fact most of us have a dominant or primary sense that we use over the others? And the language and favoured vocabulary that we use relates directly to that primary sense.

Talking someone else’s language means you are more easily able to create rapport with them. Nelson Mandela famously stated that “if you talk to a man in a language he understands that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” In order to create deep rapport and deliver your message with real impact, you want to be able to use another person’s preferred language set.

Here’s how to discover your own primary sense and preferred language:

Take a few minutes to think back to the last meeting you were involved in and relive the most memorable bits – collect the memories in your mind.

Then, think about how you remembered:

• Did you create a visual picture of the events? Was it a “snapshot” still image? Was it a “mini
movie”? Was it in colour?
• Or did you notice the sounds within the experience – people’s voices, music or the natural sounds of the surroundings?
• Or maybe the memory was about feelings inside – happiness (the meeting went really well) or tension (the Sales Director and Managing Director could not agree on anything)

Whichever one of these ways of reconstructing your memory was the first and/or most recognisable indicates your likely preferred dominant sense, either you think and operate in

• pictures (the Visuals – or The V)
• sounds (the Auditory – or The A)
• or feelings (the Kinaesthetics – or The K).

This is the VAK System – one that you as an assistant can tap into to create really great rapport with the people you work with particularly when delivering your message with impact. An indicator of your VAK System is the language that you use – particular words and phrases that we call “Predicates”.

The V

If you have a predominantly Visual Representational System then you’re likely to use words and phrases like “I see what you mean” and have a “connection” – crucial if you want to deliver your message with real impact.

“I get the picture”

“Things are looking great”

“We need to focus on this aspect”

And because you can see in your “minds eye” what you’re talking about you’re likely to use your arms and body to draw out in front of you the very thing you’re describing! You will notice how things look around you – their shape, form and colour – the aesthetics.

The A

If you have a predominantly Auditory Representational System then you’re likely to talk in predicates that are sound or music related

“We discussed the situation”

“I’d like to listen to your ideas”

“I do like the sound of that”.

You might be great at tuning into new ideas.

The K

If you have a predominantly Kinaesthetic Representational System then you’re likely to use language that is feelings, movement or touch related –
“I’m under pressure”

“I like the feeling of that”

“Things are really moving now”

“He’s hot on quality control”

You probably have a pretty clear idea of where you experience your feelings too. If you’re stressed you may touch your head, if you’re hungry you may touch your stomach and for you to really optimise any learning, you probably want to be there, doing it as a firsthand experience.

So, why is this useful I hear you cry?

“Tell me more” say the Auditory readers!

“I get a feeling this is really beneficial stuff – how can I take this great new learning and use
it in the office to deliver my message with real impact?” ask the Kinaesthetic readers.

“So, that’s great you’ve painted a picture of what this VAK thing is all about – can we look at it in relation to the PA role and delivering impactful messages?” you Visual readers

What is the use of my newfound knowledge?

Before I answer your question, let me ask you a couple of questions.

How often have you met someone for the first time and felt that you got along really well and immediately seemed to be on the “same wavelength”? How often have you met someone for the first time and found it really difficult to keep the conversation going? The reason for this could be because you are either talking the same or a different “VAK Language”.

If a primarily visual person is using all their visual type predicates, an auditory person is likely to “switch off”. However two “visual” people are much more likely to create quicker and deeper rapport and be “comfortable” with each other because they are, in effect, talking the same language.

So, next time you are listening to colleagues or friends in conversation, notice what words they tend to use and favour. Read through your emails in your inbox and notice any patterns of predicates favoured by those you work with.

What do you think that person’s dominant sense is?

If you’ve discovered you are primarily Visual and your manager is Auditory – in order to create really great rapport with him/her and deliver your message with real impact, you can adjust your language and include more auditory predicates.

8. Be open to hearing someone else’s opinion

Someone else has given you their time to listen to your opinion – which you’ve delivered with impact. Reciprocate by giving them time to share theirs.”

Lindsay Taylor is the Director of Your Excellency Limited. A former EA herself, she appreciates the challenges and diversities of the role. Lindsay is a preferred training provider with The Institute of Administrative Management (IAM), one of the oldest ... (Read More)

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