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Understanding Your State of Mind Leads to Effective Communication


Wed Oct 30 2013

Understanding Your State of Mind Leads to Effective Communication

Throughout my experiences with presenting and communicating, most important aspect to being effective has been understanding my own state of mind. How someone brings themself to any activity in life determines their experience, the experience of others, and ultimately the outcome. 

I think this concept is applicable to leaders. If leaders do not have the correct state of mind, it does not matter what they do behaviorally, they will not be as effective or have the impact they desire. Without the correct state of mind, leaders will merely be using superficial tools and techniques—and not coming from an authentic place. Indeed, genuine authenticity is a direct result of having a correct state of mind.


What does “state of mind” mean?

When it comes to managing, state of mind means being clear about what you want for your employees, what value you bring to them, and how they can use you as their manager in a way that positively affects their life. Some people may refer to this as intention, but it is deeper than intention.

State of mind comes from truly wanting to add value to people and organizations. When I look at the effectiveness of people like Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, or Gandhi to motivate and inspire others, it always comes down to their commitment to adding value to the world and the people in it. I am not trying to say every leader needs to be like those individuals, but they should try to understand that it was their “state of mind” that made them—and people like them—powerful.

Case in point

Years ago, I had a private consultation with a senior executive from a Fortune 500 company. He was probably one of the greatest managers I have ever met, and always had time to connect with people throughout the organization on a sincere level. He knew everyone in the organization by name, and also remembered their spouses’ and their children’s names. He would even send note cards to the spouses of his employees telling them how great there partner was and thanking them for being such a positive influence.


He was a remarkable person, and what made him remarkable was his state of mind. To him every employee was important, and he wanted to support them however he could so that they could achieve their personal and performance goals. The result was an incredible loyalty and hard work from each and every employee.  

That is the power of state of mind. Because of a foundational state of mind that was focused on adding value, he was able to make a fundamental difference to his employees—and his organization. He could be an effective manager and show up in an authentic way because he was anchored by his “other focused” state of mind.

Linking “state of mind” to communication skills

Understanding your “state of mind” applies to communication skills in various ways—mainly because clarity leads to results. Knowing your state of mind means you will be more clear about why you are sharing information, what value the information brings to the listener, and how they can use the message in a way that positively affects their work.

Consider again the manager I presented earlier. When I first met with him, he was petrified of speaking to groups. When he had to speak at meetings, he would get very anxious. You may ask how a person that is that effective in managing people could possibly be so nervous ingroup situations. Well, his state of mind was not in alignment with what he was really doing.


He was “self conscious” rather than “other conscious,” and it paralyzed him, making him ineffective in sharing his message in a powerful way. His state of mind when speaking to groups was “I am not good at this, I don’t have anything of value to share, and people can see how nervous I am.” Not a very effective state of mind, wouldn’t you agree?

Although I worked with him on basic delivery skills and content organization, I also focused on the foundational skill of transforming his state of mind. We did this by talking about why he was sharing certain information, how that information could help people, and how excited he really was about sharing that information from his genuine authentic self.

Then we took his personal passions and hobbies (like sailing and golf) and weaved them into his content. Over time, he connected to what he was really doing when he spoke, and came from an authentic place using his person style to drive his message home. Because of the fundamental foundational change, he was easily able to apply the delivery and content organizational tools to his natural style because he was anchored by his “other focused” state of mind.

Practical tips

Once you have a positive state of mind as your foundation, you can start to focus on delivery skills and information organization.

First, look at how to organize your content. The most important thing to remember about motivating people is to highlight the benefits. Opening and closing your message with benefits will position your content so that your listeners will see clearly that it will be advantageous to listen to what you have to say.

The mistake most people make is dumping their data without positioning the message. Without a reason to listen, most people will zone out. It makes perfect sense. If you have a message that in no way benefits me why would I pay attention?

With your content organized, you can then add delivery skills to motivate and inspire your people and install confidence. By using eye contact effectively you can engage your listener, make him feel included and important, and create an impression of confidence.

Also remember that there is no such thing as a group. A group is really several individuals together in the same room at the same time. When we talk to groups we have a tendency to scan and dart around. This may be perceived as nervous or unsure. Darting and scanning will not engage your listener and will in fact allow them to space out and not listen to you.

So, don’t talk to the groups. Talk to individuals by looking at one person and giving them one complete sentence. Then, look at someone else and finish an entire sentence to them. This will give a sense of confidence, engage each individual, and demonstrate that you value people and want to involve them in you message not just talk at them.

If you have a lot of “umms” or “uhhs” you will create an impression of not knowing what you are talking about, of not being prepared, and of not being confident and knowledgeable. That is not an impression you want to make. You will want to replace your “umms” or “uhhs” with a breath. This will have two effects: 1) eliminate your filler words and 2) create a sense of authority and confidence. Anyone who is comfortable with silence will own the room.

These are simple concepts in theory and difficult in application. The reason is most of what we do is habit—and research shows it takes 21 to 28 days to change a habit. So, if you want to be competent at engaging eye contact, for example, you will have to practice diligently for 21 to 28 days. It is the same for pausing, breathing, and eliminating filler words. Work on only one skill at a time for the 21 to 28 days. If you work on two at once you will become frustrated and not see any improvement.

Start first with identifying and owning your state of mind, though. Then, see if you can organize your information and use the delivery skills to add value to the message. If you are diligent, I assure you that you will see an amazing improvement on the impact you can have in all your communication situations.

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