The power of knowing it's not about you

Whether you’re in business or work in a government or not for profit organisation, success isn’t going to land in your lap through quietly doing your thing and hoping people take notice. We're operating in a reputation-driven economy, where other people’s perceptions are critical to your ongoing success.

Most of us forget that we need to build our own “reputation capital”. One key way to do that is to make sure that in every interaction, we’re focussing on our audience, not on ourselves.

When I say “audience”, I’m not necessarily meaning a situation where you’re performing on a stage or speaking to a large crowd. Your audience is anyone who is interacting with you at any time. Often we’re so focussed on what we want to say and need to get across, that we forget the needs of the other party.

International speaker Lindsay Adams uses the analogy of the time when he built his own home - even though he had no building experience - and the critical importance of relationships in getting the house constructed. Because he was able to build rapport quickly with people, he got amazing deals on building supplies and offers of help from the most unexpected quarters. He puts it this way: Focus on them 100%, not on you.

That’s a recipe for success in any business relationship. I work with many people who simply aren’t used to putting their audience first. Some come from highly technical or accounting backgrounds where it’s all about the data and figures. It’s never occurred to them that they are interacting with a human and that person has particular needs in receiving their information. Even those who aren’t from a technical background tend to put most of their focus on their side of the communication, not on how effectively their message is being received.

Relationships are vital to building your reputation, which in turn is critical to your business success. I’m not for a moment suggesting you should be superficial or anything less than authentic in the way you deal with people. What I am saying is, being a communicator who puts the audience first will help you become a stand-out in your organisation. And it’s the stand-outs who go on to get the great opportunities, promotions and job offers, and who have an incredibly positive impact on everyone around them. Isn’t that where you want to be?

“It is the message people take away, not the message we send, that determines our success as a communicator.” – Hugh Mackay

Here are some tips for putting your audience first, to focus on them 100%, not on you.

1. Who are they and what do they need?

A lot of the time we interact with people - whether by email or in a meeting or presentation - and we haven’t really thought about who we are communicating with. What do they most need from us? What are their concerns? What are they likely to be thinking about when they’re receiving the communication, whether written or verbal? Address the areas of most concern to them first. Don’t work your way to the punch line, put it up front. That sends a very clear message that you are tuned into their wavelength, and they will then be more receptive to what you have to say.

“It’s only words, and words are all I have to take your heart away.” – Barry Gibb

2. Watch your language

Words are powerful, so choose them wisely. Use “you” and “we” focused language not “I” language. If what you say is all about you, you’re putting up a barrier to rapport which will hinder your communication.

3. No one wants to work hard to get your message.

It doesn’t matter if you’re communicating with someone with a string of letters after their name; that’s irrelevant. Regardless of how clever you think they are, nobody wants to struggle to understand what you have to stay.

Everyone is busy and overloaded with information. If you make it simple - by joining the dots and interpreting the information in a clear and meaningful way that relates directly to their concerns – you’re doing a huge service.  You’ll get your message across effectively, and at the same time show yourself to be the stand-out that you are.

Remember, put the audience first. Make it easy for them to love your message and you’ll be building reputation every time you communicate.

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Neryl East

Neryl East is a reputation, communication and media expert who shows businesses and organisations how to stand out - for the right reasons! EDUCATION: PhD in Journalism, University of Wollongong Master of Arts, University of Wollongong Certificate IV Training and Assessment (TAFE NSW) International Certificate of Public Participation (IAP2) EMPLOYMENT HISTORY: Director - Neryl East Communications Pty Limited Manager Communications and Public Relations - Wollongong City Council Manager Media and Communications - Shellharbour City Council Head of Communications and Marketing - Australian War Memorial Lecturer and tutor - University of Wollongong Lecturer - APM College of Business and Communication Manager External Relations - University of Western Sydney Freelance journalist - The Australian, ABC, Southern Cross Television, Prime Television News Director - WIN Television, Western NSW Journalist/producer/presenter - WIN Television, Wollongong Journalist/producer - Radio 2CH INTERESTS: Netball umpiring, theatre, travel