I was working with a client this week in Denver, and I was reminded of a very important lesson. You see, I’m a guy who understands the importance of words. I teach people how to create trust by using the correct words. I teach people how to create urgency by using the correct words. I teach people how to ask questions by using the correct words. I’m pretty good with these words, but every now and then, I forget to remind my clients that these words are almost meaningless if they aren’t spoken with conviction.
It reminded me of one of my favorite stories. It seems that Mark Twain was known for a few things, and one of those things (that you don’t hear a whole lot about) was his habit of cursing. This particular habit annoyed his wife to no end. One day, while shaving, he nicked himself and let out a healthy stream of curse words. In the other room, his wife was so incensed that she proceeded to write down every single word he uttered. When he entered the room, she read every single word back to him. He listened attentively, smiled, and responded by saying, “That’s very good, honey. You’ve got the words; you just don’t know the tune.”
Think for a moment about your “tune.”
• When you ask someone to tell you his/her story, does your tune say you sincerely care?
• When you ask someone to tell you his or her concerns, does your tune say you feel true empathy?
• When you ask someone to trust you, does your tune tell that person to believe you?
• When you ask someone to have faith in you, does your tune tell that individual that you are worthy of that faith?
It’s not just the words that matter, but how you say these words. But let’s go deeper. How exactly do you produce the correct tune? It’s easier than you might think.
You must be in the moment. It isn’t hard to sincerely care, or feel someone’s pain, or ask someone to trust you, or ask someone to have faith in you when you are in the moment. At that moment, that very moment in time, you truly and sincerely feel the emotions of the person sharing their story with you. You know, in your head and in your heart, that you really do care.
You must be in the moment. It isn’t hard to sincerely care, or feel someone’s pain, or ask someone to trust you, or ask someone to have faith in you when at that moment – that very moment in time – you truly, sincerely, in your head and heart, really do care.
I’ll say it again: It’s easier than you think because you’ve been there before. When a close friend tells you that he or she is struggling in a marriage, I doubt that you would smile, wink at a friend who just walked by, or look casually off to the side while asking a monotone question like “Please tell me more.” You probably lock eyes with this lifelong friend, slide your chair a quarter of an inch closer, and in a true somber tone, ask: “Please, tell me more.”
You don’t have to over-think this, or overact, or even act at all. For that brief instant, you simply have to be in the moment, and you will connect the words with the tune.