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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Perception Isn't Everything, It's the Only Thing.

I was talking to a friend about metaphorical conversations, logical rhetoric, and absolute Truth today and thought I should share something witty  metaphorical, or just clever. I wonder often what the value of buzz words, edu-speak, and jargon in my professional life. I love to read books like Metaphors We Live By and Eats, Shoots & Leaves to better understand the language I use daily. In my opinion it's not what you say so much that matters as how you say it. The less you write, the clearer the message. The less you talk, the stronger the speech.

One of my favorite quotes is from Earl Long, the infamous governor of Louisiana: 
"Don't write anything you can phone. Don't phone anything you can talk. Don't talk anything you can whisper. Don't whisper anything you can smile. Don't smile anything you can nod. Don't not anything you can't wink."

In this digital age everything we say can be written down or recorded. We post things to Facebook, LinkedIn, and write on blogs such as this one. It makes me appreciate the value of my words even more. It makes me both more aware of the language I use and wary of how I use it. The permanence of writing has never been more astounding. The simplicity with which we share our voices has never been more alarming. Holding myself accountable for everything I write say and do has never been a higher priority.

As an up-and-coming professional and someone who would like to be a public servant or in larger leadership roles one day, I reflect often on how I express myself. I think it behooves us all to understand leadership better, especially in terms of identifying the styles we are more adept at. We each have our own talents and gifts. Warren Bennis summarizes leadership styles very well and I highly recommend you learn where your strengths and weaknesses are. I think I would summarize my leadership style in a metaphor: Under-promise. Over-deliver.

The fact is simple, however, that perception is all that really matters. Saying the right thing, at the right time... to the right person or at the right place... is how society moves and people work together. Using the appropriate vernacular, tone, and tempo means everything to your audience. Influence over their decisions or the altering of their behavior depends on your communication skills. So I guess, then, that perception isn't everything... it's the only thing.

Okay, I think that was witty enough. What do you think?