The receiving person is bombarded with symbols and signals from you. Everything you do in relation to other people causes them to make judgments about what you stand for and what your message is. "You are the message" comes down to the fact that unless you identify yourself as a walking, talking message, you miss that critical point.
The words themselves are meaningless unless the rest of you is in synchronization. The total you affects how others think of and respond to you.
ARE YOU A WINNER?
What does all this mean to you in terms of getting what you want by being who you are? What it means is that your composite message determines whether you're going to be successful in whatever career you've chosen, whether you're going to move up in the management of your company, whether you're going to be a winner or a loser, whether you're going to succeed in negotiating situations, whether you're going to become a superstar or just another droning voice who eventually gets a wristwatch at retirement. The stakes are that high. It's that important for you to accept that you (the whole you) are the message--and that message determines whether or not you'll get what you want in this life.
Over the past twenty-five years, I've worked with literally thousands of business and political leaders, show business personalities, and men and women who just want to be successful. I've helped many of them learn to communicate more effectively, control communication environments, make persuasive presentations, field hostile questions from journalists or irate corporate shareholders, and generally handle the ever-changing communication situations we all find ourselves in every day. The secret of that training has always been "You are the message." If you are uncomfortable with who you are, it will make others uncomfortable, too. But if you can identify and use your good qualities as a person, others will want to be with you and cooperate with you.
A PERSONAL INVENTORY
Take a piece of paper and list personal assets that help you communicate. Consider your physical appearance, energy, rate of speech, pitch and tone of voice, animation and gestures, expressiveness of eyes, and ability to hold the interest of people who listen to you. Perhaps you can add other qualities. These assets form the best part of the composite you. Study the list to see which areas you wish to improve. Those categories you feel less confident of are also part of your total message. In this book, we'll show you, as the old song says, how to "accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative."
"You are the message" is a new way of looking at yourself and others. Sometimes we can make mistakes about others if, as we view them, we segment them and only get a partial picture. This person has good-looking hair; that person has no hair. This person should lose weight; that one should gain weight. We look at all these parts of people, but then we quickly perceive the person in totality. You can have the greatest head of hair in the world, or the greatest smile, or the greatest voice, or whatever, but after two minutes you're going to be looked at as a whole person. All of those impressions of your various parts will have been blended into one complete composite picture, and the other person will have a feeling about you based on that total impression. Enough of that image has to be working in your favor for you to be liked, accepted, and given what you want.
THE UNFORGETTABLE BENNETT
Bennett Cerf, former chairman of Random House Publishing, was a man who never gave in to the pressure of growing up completely. He was an incorrigible punster. He would make a joke about anything and always seemed to be in good humor. He had a tremendous interest in other people. This quality alone made him one of the most sought-after friends and hosts in the world. He wasn't great-looking, he didn't have a great voice, he wasn't even a great speaker, and yet he became well known on national television, where publishing house executives usually aren't public figures. The reason? People liked Bennett!
They always had the feeling he cared about them and was interested in what they were doing--and he truly was. He was interested in everyone he met. After meeting Bennett and spending ten minutes with him, you would find yourself engrossed in a deep conversation about yourself. Bennett was probing, interested, caring. He never hesitated to offer advice or ideas. He never held back because he thought he might lose some of himself if he gave it to others.
I had enormous respect for Bennett. I only knew him well for a few months, but I knew him well enough to understand why people were drawn to him. At the most serious moments, the little boy in Bennett would surface, he would say something funny, and everyone would start to giggle. I've seen many other people who careened from crisis to crisis, but I always had the feeling that Bennett Cerf was laughing from crisis to crisis and enjoying the trip. Bennett Cerf built a publishing empire and was a successful businessman, yet he gave the overall impression that life was a lark.
MAKING SENSE OF YOUR SENSES
For the next week, whenever you meet someone, quickly form an overall impression. Do I like this person or not? Am I comfortable or not comfortable? As soon as the overall impression is formed, try to identify as many particulars as you can about the person. Look at eyes, face, attitude, style, and voice. This exercise will sharpen your instincts about people. It will enable you to better "read between the lines" with others. You'll quickly spot if people mean what they're saying. You'll more readily discern nuances from others--for example, if they're tired, depressed, bored, or anxious, or if their interest has suddenly been piqued (reading other people accurately is essential if you want to succeed in any sales or negotiating situation).
Practice by writing down everything your senses tell you about each person you meet. If you cannot list at least twelve impressions or observations, you need some concentrated work in this area. This exercise will sharpen your instincts about people.
The fact is, our senses are always working, although we've trained ourselves to ignore them at times by tuning out. The goal of opening up your senses and practicing this exercise is to expand the sensory radar that all of us have but that only the most astute communicators tap into. Have you ever noticed that some people--maybe a boss, a teacher, or a friend--seem to be able to read your mind at times? The gift some people have is that they have trained their sensory radar better than you have. You can become more like these master communicators by opening up your senses instead of shutting them down.
The fact that most of us only use a small percentage of our sensory potential is demonstrated by the heightened sensing abilities developed by certain handicapped people. For example, the blind often hear, touch, and smell with great perception and subtlety. It's not that their other senses are better or different than those of sighted people--they're just more acutely used.