Frances Cole Jones | How to Wow (Episode 486)

Frances Cole Jones (@FCJones), author of How to Wow, wants you (yes, you!) to know that charisma is something you can learn and cultivate for better job interviews, sales pitches, presentations, and connecting with others.

The Cheat Sheet:

  • Understand the impact of body language on communication (by managing your own and reading that of others).
  • Learn how to listen for intent as well as content.
  • Use this proven language for increasing listener buy-in from 60 percent to 94 percent.
  • How should you stand when you want to convey authority?
  • How should you sit when you want to gain someone’s trust?
  • And so much more…

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People often believe that charisma is god-given, or that they need to practice for hours a day or months at a time to become a more compelling speaker — but today’s guest is here to explain why this is simply not true. There are things you can do today that will make you more effective tomorrow.

In episode 486 of The Art of Charm, we talk to Frances Cole Jones, author of How to Wow: Proven Strategies for Selling Your [Brilliant] Self in Any Situation. She tells us not only how we can develop our own charisma to excel in social situations, but also to recognize that we’re far more in control of situations that seem…out of our control — like job interviews, sales, pitches, and presentations.

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More About This Show

When it comes to communication, getting your point across often has more to do with how you say something than what you’re actually saying. In fact, according to Frances Cole Jones, author of How to Wow: Proven Strategies for Selling Your [Brilliant] Self in Any Situation, “There was a study done at UCLA of the three components of your message. What they discovered is that people actually remember only about seven percent of what is said. So 38 percent of your impact is your tonal quality, and 55 percent is what your body’s doing while you’re talking.”

Whether you agree with what has come to be known as the 7%-38%-55% Rule or not (for instance: turn on a foreign-language movie without subtitles and see if you can figure out what’s going on), it does illustrate that being aware of the power of body language can help you craft the efficacy of your own messages.

“Put Your Hands Where I Can See Them!”

“One of the things I tell everybody,” says Frances, “is we trust you when we can see your hands, and we don’t trust you when we can’t. And that’s why one of the first things they say to the alleged criminal is ‘put your hands where I can see them!'”

So if you go to a job interview, or you’re giving a speech, or you’re leading a meeting, or on a date, or in any number of situations where the outcome involves the other party putting some level of trust in you and what you’re saying, make sure your hands are out in the open and not hidden away in your pockets or fidgeting out of sight somewhere.

Frances says we can also learn a lot about conveying sincerity by watching public apologies with the sound off and seeing if we can determine how “sorry” the speaker seems to be (examples given: Tiger Woods and Kanye West). You can make your own judgments, but Frances says she’s a little suspicious about an apology that’s made by someone who seems a little too comfortable on the furniture. “The minute that you are lounging against the back of the chair,” she says, “you do not seem as committed.”

On the subject of insincerity (or outright lying), we know people usually have certain “tells” that give the ruse away — but the baseline can vary from person to person. We need to really observe people for a while before we can accurately attach meanings to their patterns of behavior. Depending on disproven universal indicators can result in false accusations against honest people, so make sure your field testing is extensive before acting on suspicions!

Listening for Intent As Well As Content

One way to avoid coming to the wrong conclusion is by learning how to listen for intent as well as content. “There’s an underlying layer to what’s being said,” says Frances. If you go to your boss and ask for a raise, and you note the tonality of their refusal as being more whimsical than regretful, you doubt the sincerity of what they’re saying. If, on the other hand, they refuse in a way that expresses gratefulness for your work and hope that they’ll be able to give you one in the near future, you’re more likely to come away feeling like they actually mean what they’re saying. (Third option: just giving you the raise would be super convincing.)

Understanding the intent as well as content also comes in handy when you’re trying to defuse a situation with someone who’s angry. “You can say to someone, ‘What I’m really hearing and what I’m getting from you is that you’re really angry and you’re really frustrated. Am I right about that?'” If they concede that, yes, they are angry and frustrated, consider this: they’re now agreeing with you. It sounds like a small thing, but it’s a step toward the two of you working together toward a shared goal. Now you’re on the same side.

Looping

To reinforce the camaraderie of being on the same side, it helps to demonstrate that you’re listening to what they’re saying. Frances explains looping as a way of doing this: “If you started telling a story about anything — whatever it might be — and then I would loop back what I believe I heard you say.”

For example, maybe someone’s told you about their morning. They went for a bike ride, there was no rain, the trail was clear, they got a good workout, and then they went out for lunch. Frances might use looping to follow up by retelling the story in her own way: “I’m going to stop you for a second. I want to make sure I understood everything. You got up this morning and jumped on your bicycle. The weather was clear and the path was empty, so you were really able to go at your own pace and enjoy your workout and feel your heart beating and have some solitude and enjoy nature. And then, once you were finished with that, lo and behold it was lunchtime and you could go and have a lunch to recover from this bicycle ride.”

By using this method, you make it clear that you’re tuned in to what the other person considers the most important thing in the world (them!) — and isn’t that charismatic? This also gives someone who’s angry or not very talkative the opportunity to correct you, which draws out communication from people who might not be initially inclined to be communicative. It can even put them in a more logical frame of mind if they began the conversation emotionally.

Increasing Listener Buy-In

Back in the ’70s, Dr. Ellen Langer of Harvard University learned there’s one word that increases the possibility of cooperation from 60 percent to 94 percent. That word is “because.”

Always giving people the because behind why you’re doing something or requesting something from them seems to make them more likely to concede because you’re being reasonable and giving them the power to make a choice. It’s almost like a magic password for legitimacy.

For example, if you’re standing in line and someone wants to cut in front of you, think about the difference between these two approaches (and how you would respond):

  1. “Hey, can I cut in line?”
  2. “Hey, can I cut in line because I’m late to class and I have a test today!

This technique can be applied in a number of ways (try it!). Frances gives the example of a job interview. “Very often, people are concerned about going on job interviews and being asked a question to which they don’t have the answer. But if you said to your interviewer, ‘I’d like to think about that for a second because I want to be sure to give you the best answer possible,’ who’s mad at that?”

The Active Listening Face

Some people can’t help it. Under normal circumstances, their faces don’t convey much in the way of expression. If they’re not careful, the people around them might take this lack of expression personally and regard it as a sign of anger or disinterest. There are names for the phenomenon, and this video conveys a couple of the most common ones (warning: mildly NSFW for its PG-13 language if your boss is some kind of uptight c*$^wad).

If your face falls into one of these categories, Frances recommends at least acknowledging it and developing an active listening face for social situations. Some might decry this as inauthentic (“Hey, this is just how I am!”), but it really makes a big difference when you’re dealing with people for the first time who don’t know you well enough to understand that that’s just how you are.

One exercise Frances recommends is what she calls “The Pumpkin Raisin Face.”

“What you do in the beginning is you make your face as big as a jack-o-lantern,” says Frances. “So you open your mouth as wide as you can and you open your eyes as wide as you can and you just go over that kind of crazy howl kind of a face. And then the next thing you do is you tighten up every single muscle as much as you possibly can so your face looks like a teeny, tiny, wisened little raisin. And if you do that five or six or eight or 10 times, you’ll notice you have so much more mobility and so much more expression in your face.”

Just make sure to do this in private before you know you’re going to talk to someone and not during. That would present a completely different uncomplimentary impression.

A Nod or a Shake for the Point That You Make

Want to put a positive spin on something you’re saying? Nod while you’re saying it. Negative? Shake your head. It sounds obviously rudimentary, but Frances talks about a study in which bad news (“your tuition is going up, and this is why”) was conveyed to two groups of college students. While the verbal component remained consistent, the only difference was the spokesperson nodded at one group while doling out the news, and shook his head for the other. The group that got the nod reported a more understanding attitude about the news, while the group that got the shake was more upset.

Notice too how lawyers on television court dramas will nod when presenting summation arguments to the jury in order to punctuate the “truth” of what they’re saying. (Jordan confirms that real lawyers do this, as well.)

Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm in its entirety to further learn how to generate camaraderie, how to tell a prospective employer about something negative from your past (while maintaining control of the situation), how to organize a room where you’re public speaking so your audience trusts you more and internalizes your message, and more. Sign up for Frances’ Wow of the Week at her website or click on the Ask a Question button there to see what happens!

THANKS, FRANCES COLE JONES!

If you enjoyed this session with Frances Cole Jones, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out on Twitter:

Click here to thank Frances Cole Jones on Twitter!

Resources from this episode:

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Please don’t miss the chance to take our very important listeners’ survey here! It’ll only take about three minutes and your responses will help us improve the show!

For a limited time, stream Understanding Investments (a $215 value) and hundreds of other video series on The Great Courses Plus -- an exciting new video learning service featuring nearly 5,000 videos taught by the world's greatest professors -- for free here!

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Jordan Harbinger - author of 883 posts on The Art of Charm

Jordan Harbinger has spent several years abroad in Europe and the developing world, including South America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, and speaks several languages. He has also worked for various governments and NGOs overseas, traveled through war zones, and been kidnapped -- twice. He’ll tell you the only reason he’s still alive and kicking is because of his ability to talk his way into (and out of) just about any type of situation. Here at The Art of Charm, Jordan shares that experience, and the system borne as a result, with students and clients.

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