Making an impact is all very well, but what are you going to do when you’ve got their attention? You need to look beyond impact to the underlying point of your encounters.
Interest in developing Personal Impact has surged in recent years just as the recruitment process has become more challenging and opportunities fewer. But impact is not an end in itself. And anyway how do we know if we are making the right impact?
People do need to stand out from the crowd – being ‘eminently forgettable’ will not do when pitching to clients, getting ‘air time’ in meetings or seeking to persuade and influence colleagues.
But making an impact is a one-way process – from me to you. Communication becomes ‘broadcast mode’ – a series of statements – ‘talking at’ rather than engaging in conversation or exchange. It’s only by engaging with others that we can understand their points of view, see how they respond and begin to focus on the things that are relevant and meaningful.
Communication is increasingly dominated by electronic messaging, which of course allows rapid exchange but which does not create the same opportunity to interpret nuance and complexity that you get in face to face conversation.
An important consequence of this is that people are not so good at judging the impact they are having on others.
If we want to influence people or sell ideas, we need to connect, engage and build relationships. That means listening as well as talking, receiving as well as broadcasting, taking the trouble to understand other points of view, noticing how we are received, recognising what is critical for them and responding appropriately – in a word empathising.
Empathy is a fundamental element of emotional intelligence. Awareness of others – their values and attitudes – informs our own behaviour. And it’s not only an inner perspective – our physical state can invite or discourage relationships.
This is important not just in the workplace. The ability to build and manage relationships appropriately, whether with family, friends or clients, affects the integrity of all our dealings.