One of my pet peeves is sitting with someone who is just chattering away about certain values and positions – but they really have no intention of actually acting on any of those values or the positions that they are taking. It is just words flowing out of their mouth. Just words.
This kind of thing happens with politicians, religious folks, sales people and a host of others. It is particularly disturbing when it comes from people close to you – people whom you want to trust – people you normally believe will follow through and make their words good.
Jeff and I feel very strongly that authenticity is one of the key attributes of a successful major gift officer – the words coming from a MGO’s mouth should be believable and true. Words really do matter.
But wait! There is a whole other side of communication. It’s the non-verbals.
Almost 50 years ago Albert Mehrabian came up with the 7%-38%-55% Rule for the relative impact of words, tone of voice, and body language when speaking. His basic point was that words matter least in communication, and our body language matters most.
According to the Wikipedia article I link to above, these three elements of communication account differently for how much we like someone who speaks to us about emotions: words account for 7%, tone of voice accounts for 38%, and body language accounts for 55% of the liking.
For effective and meaningful communication about emotions, these three parts of the message need to support each other – they have to be “congruent.” If they’re not, the person listening might be irritated by getting cues in two different directions. Here’s an example of incongruence:
Verbal: “I do not have a problem with you!”
Non-verbal: person avoids eye-contact, looks anxious, has a closed body language, etc.
An article by MarketSmart brought this subject to my attention. In their writings they advise “not to worry so much about what you’re going to say when you finally get to meet that big donor. Instead, to land more major gifts, you should study and practice the following 10 non-verbal mannerisms that can truly improve your face-to-face effectiveness:
- Mind your manners
- Exhibit enthusiasm
- Exude confidence
- Radiate passion
- Ooze empathy
- Express gratitude (especially in your facial expressions)
- Demonstrate curiosity (with attentiveness)
- Mirror your donor’s tone, volume, sitting position, and posture
- Smile again and again and again.”
Jeff and I would add one umbrella value or principle to these 10 points. Do all of them with authenticity. If you don’t, your actions may turn into premeditated “techniques” for non-verbal behavior, and you will come off as phony and unreal.
I really like how MarketSmart finishes up their musings on this topic with a very good piece of advice: “When you do use words, make sure to use about 1/3 as many as your prospect uses. You were given two ears and one mouth. Use them proportionately.”
There are so many words out there. Just turn on your TV or radio, or spend some time on the internet. Even your newspapers and magazines are oozing with words – many of them meaningful and helpful. But I find that people are tired of words. They long for real meaning – something that comes to them and adds real value without manipulative intent. Plan to give each donor on your caseload these kinds of words. It will be a breath of fresh air for them. And you will feel better about yourself for doing it this way.
Very nice post, thank you. I’d add that when you are using words–in print–to write the way you would talk and to convey your points in writing as well. Too often people have lovely meetings with donors and then write very formal, stiff and academic follow-up letters. It’s a missed opportunity to further the connection.