As a linguist (and not a cunning one) I have always been fascinated by language and emotional intelligence. Both are interlinked even though we may not realise it. Language: in its ability to harm, heal and tell you everything you need to know about a person or culture and emotional intelligence in relation to all manner of interpersonal and professional relationships. I have named this blog ‘We need to talk’ because you know as soon as someone says that to you, a bombshell is about to drop from the sky. Right on your barnet before you hit the family size tub of Ben & Jerry’s or a kilo bar of Dairy Milk. But as human beings, we DO need to talk. And a lot more. BT got it right in their ads with Maureen Lipman and her grandson’s ‘ologies’ and those were BT (Before Technology).
From the way Eskimos describe snow and how Spaniards use food and mother references to offend to NLP training and how to master and ‘manipulate’ the spoken word, language is the most powerful and beautiful tool in the world. But we humans, the most advance of all beings (except for Daleks, of course) too often forget its power. Unlike our predecessors who used the power of the word to bring us literary delights that formed and moulded our very being, BT (Before Technology).
A situation happened with a client this week: a long-standing issue for a client that hadn’t been settled by law or technology. So I got involved and spoke to the third party in question. Within minutes if not hours, this particular situation was one step further towards resolution than it had been in two years – due to one polite and, dare I boldly say, intelligent email plus a planned telephone call.
Whilst we hide behind social media accounts and email, our ability to communicate becomes anti-social, if anything. A goldfish bowl attention spans filters into our living and breathing world, so much so, that we lose touch with our greatest gift. K.I.S.S. as one of my other client always says: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Just pick up the phone.
Not all PR’s love to write but I do. I love to read as much as I love to write but over the years, as technology hurls us forward into the unknown, I would much prefer to have a telephone conversation with someone first and then follow up with one or two simple emails. I used to hate the phone and never answered it unless it was for work – phone = work in my PR world. And then the world changed. I now enjoy speaking on the phone most of the time before I slump back into my loner, ‘bah humbug’ ways.
Listening to someone’s voice also brings a different level into any form of interpersonal relationship. Yet even when we do talk, do we actually listen? When listening to a foreign language by phone, we only pick up about 55% of words, which is why it is sometimes hard to understand. But many people are never present or listening at all, regardless of whether they are speaking in Mother Tongue or A N Other language (by phone or otherwise). It all gets rather complicated.
When you listen to what someone says, coupled with their body language, it will tell you everything you need to know about them. If they use the words ‘that looks great’ a lot, you know they are visual people; if they say ‘that sounds great’ you know they are auditory souls. If they cover their mouth while you speak you can pretty much assume they don’t want to answer, don’t believe what you are saying or have something to hide (unless you have a halitosis problem). Most body language is involuntary so should never be underestimated.
If we shout at someone, there is a higher probability that someone will shout back at us, as if under attack. In the same way that when animals sense fear, they attack, we too use our voices, words and, with the advent of technology, capital letters and exclamation marks, to both attack and defend. In relation to animals I often test this theory with ‘vicious’ dogs – I ‘speak’ to them in a very loving way (and tone of voice) and see how their posture changes.
When trying to fathom Mars and Venus distinctions and manage personal relationships, don’t ask me about the latter. I have a filthy temper on me when it comes to men and arguments (only if I care about them) but as I can no longer shout, post-Cancer, I have to take my emotional intelligence to new highs (or just punch their lights out and end up with a criminal record – does jail do Gluten-Free meals?). The key is always language. Not always shouting, just words, the most powerful weapon of them all. But never be too controlled, get it out and don’t fester (note the use of exclamation marks here)!!
At work, the angrier I get (when I allow things to get to me) the more polite I become, just because I can’t lose my rag with a client or a journalist or third party – I always try and be reasonable and the work world is very small. If I ever start a sentence “With the greatest of respect…” you know my blood is boiling. The more I dislike someone or I know they are false, a wanker or a liar (and I can always sniff out a liar, so much so I discovered someone living under an alias, LOL), the more polite I am. It is fun to watch me in action, I can assure you. It stems from my late father teaching me “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer”. I know it is one of the all-time favourite Godfather lines but never a truer word was spoken – and he did actually say it!
This particular phrase takes me right back to where this blog started, to the client situation. I told my client to keep enemies closer and all that. Confuse them. Be nice to them. I was extra nice on their behalf and it appears to be working. And the root of this power? The spoken word, always. Am I evil? Probably. But don’t tell anyone (on email, text, in person or on Whatsapp!). Definitely not on the phone!