I get it, I really do.
You don’t have the time, energy or staff to pay attention to everything all the time.
Our collective attention span is not what it used to be (remember the days before IM’ing, texting and emails.)
We’re all doing more – but paying less attention. And it’s costing you dearly.
Today’s guest blog is from Connie Dieken author ‘Talk Less, Say More’with three tips on “How to Influence the World – One Short Attention Span at a Time.”
‘How to Influence the World – One Short Attention Span at a Time’ by Connie Dieken.
Today, you’ll leave a voicemail that will be zapped mid-sentence. You’ll send an e-mail that’s unceremoniously dismissed. As you try to make a point, someone will rudely interrupt. You’ll attend a meeting where no one will listen to the presenter. And the guy in the next cubicle will shoot you an e-mail instead of talking to you face-to-face.
It’s just another day in the life of a 21st century communicator.
We’re living in a distracted, impatient, attention-deficit world. As the demands on our time and attention explode, a 21st century bad habit has emerged: chronic impatience. It’s as if we each have a channel-changing remote control embedded in our restless, fidgety brains. Is someone taking too long to get to the point? Zap. Are you boring me? Click.
Intrigued by this new phenomenon, I surveyed 400 business leaders who, thankfully, paid attention to my request and responded by completing the study. The results were nearly unanimous: 99% of businesspeople agree that attention spans are shorter today than 3 years ago and this is having a damaging effect on communication skills. Multi-tasking (such as checking e-mail or text messaging instead of listening) was selected by 93% of survey respondents as the leading cause of today's declining skills.
This confirms what you've been experiencing - both in the workplace and in your personal life. People are not paying attention as you speak– they’re quick to pull the trigger and tune you out.
Don’t want to be ignored? Fortunately, there's a solution. It takes just 3 habits to conquer this 21st century communication challenge: Connect, Convey, Convince.® I use these habits to elicit responses and I’d like to share them with you. My book, Talk Less, Say More, is loaded with tips and techniques to apply them to your world, but here are the basics:
Habit 1: Connect
Definition: Capture people’s attention by giving them what they want and value so they'll tune in
Biggest mistake: Rambling
According to 71% of survey respondents, rambling or taking too long to get to the point is the major reason why people fail to connect with others.
Connecting in the 21st century is a whole new game - it’s changed profoundly in today’s busy world. That’s because there’s been a monumental power shift in communication. The listener now holds the power. In their quest for stimulation and speed, people are easily lured away by more appealing distractions like e-mails, text messages, tweets, cell phone calls, or web surfing.
Clearly, there’s a new urgency for you to get to your point quickly and banish long-windedness. But it’s not as simple as paring down the number of words that you use. You have to stay in their moment and frontload your message with what the listener wants and values most. What’s relevant to them, not just to you? Connect in this manner and you’ll engage and capture their attention. You won’t lose them at hello.
Blame the lure of instant gratification. We've become conditioned to getting what we want, when we want it. Think about it: there's speed dating, spray tans, instant tooth whitening, quick weight loss surgery - the list goes on. In our shortcut society, we don't need to wait patiently for the results we want. This desire for instant gratification is naturally spreading to our communication habits, which spells the end of yada yada yada.
Don't drive people to distraction by rambling. Connect by tapping into what the receiver wants and values. They’ll reward you by tuning out the distractions and tuning in to YOU.
Habit 2: Convey
Definition: Use portion control to get your points across with clarity, not confusion
Biggest mistake: Overloading
79% of survey respondents said overloading others with too much information is the biggest reason why people do not properly convey their messages.
Let’s start with this premise: smart conveying is radically different in today’s information-laden society than it was just a few years ago. Social scientists say we’re buried beneath an avalanche of information ten thousand times bigger than what an earlier generation had to deal with.
We live and do business in a world of information overload. If you confuse, you lose. Navigating today's information jumble requires a new, more concise approach.
Our world is full of communiclutter® which you must conquer in order to convey successfully. What’s that? Communiclutter is my term for communication overload—when you’re bombarded with endless streams of communication 24/7, making it difficult to focus and process all of the short-burst, incoming information. You need shortcuts to process and understand it all.
In our new world, communiclutter is inescapable. What we can’t prevent, we must embrace—and manage. Just as you manage your incoming communications, you should also manage your outgoing communications. That’s information management.
I learned many conveying secrets during my two decades as a television broadcaster. The key to ensuring that your message is clearly understood is to use portion control. Sprinkle in more visuals, present information in triplets, and tell stories instead of dumping data on people. These portion control tactics create better shelf life for your information than mere words.
Habit 3: Convince
Definition: Create commitment to influence decisions, actions, and beliefs
Biggest mistake: Lack of reasoning
According to 60% of respondents, not explaining why you want others to commit to a cause is the biggest reason why people fail to take action.
When I ask leaders for their secret weapons to convince resistant people to act, most say they simply back up and explain why they want people to do things in the first place. That’s how they enlist an army to become part of the solution. It’s easier to support something when you understand what you’re trying to solve and why.
When people don’t hear the real reason behind a decision, many people will assign it the worst possible reasoning. It’s human nature. Office gossips assume the worst and spread their poison, leading to grudges, resistance, and poor execution.
Revealing your reasoning, along with transferring ownership of your ideas to others, are the keys to persuading others to join the movement. They’ll help you gain long-term commitment, not short-term compliance.
The ability to convince others is not a genetic gift like singing ability. It can be learned. Most convincers don’t captivate crowds as successfully as Apple CEO Steve Jobs , a seasoned presenter who takes the stage with the rock-star status of Mick Jagger. They’re more like Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who’s not exactly known for his dazzling presentation skills.
Both men know the secret: convincing is not a thunderbolt event. It’s not an isolated, once-and-done occurrence. It’s a process of earning trust and respect. If you’ve connected and conveyed properly, convincing people to take a specific action should be the easiest step.
21st century influence is a process that unfolds incrementally—Connect-Convey-Convince®—to change hearts and minds and compel others to action. Miss a step and you’ll likely fail to be influential.
Communication is the single greatest challenge in business today. It takes just 3 habits to conquer it. Apply these habits and you'll become the powerful, influential communicator our impatient, attention-deficit world demands.
Connie Dieken is a leadership communication coach and an Emmy Award-winning former television news anchor.
She’s the founder and President of onPoint Communication and has guided thousands of leaders from organizations like Apple, Olympus, and McDonald’s to be more influential and achieve positive results.
(Wiley; September 2009).