Recently I hired a local consulting firm to assist me with a website redesign. I’ve been doing a lot of courtroom work, and I wanted to add more courtroom content to our website. Over the course of several conversations it became clear that I not only needed a new website, but an entire new brand, and so the process began with the question, “Who are you?”
“Who am I?” I replied, incredulous. “Don’t make me stab you in the eye with this pen,” I said.
Seriously, though. Isn’t this a question we all struggle with our entire lives? Who the heck knows “who they are?” What does that even mean?
(For those of you hoping to never answer that question, I strongly advise you to avoid the rebrand process.)
I’m happy to report, however, that several weeks in, I’m much clearer. And I have yet to stab anyone. (Regarding rebranding at least.) I can now answer, when anyone asks what FORTE does, that: We help people communicate authentically. This, unfortunately, isn’t the typical message associated with nonverbal communication.
For example, a lot of “body language” stuff out there revolves around how to get other people to do what you want. Whether it’s “create instant rapport!” or ” learn how to detect lying!” or in the legal field, “identify dangerous jurors!” the claim is that by learning to read and use body language you can manipulate a situation or person to your advantage.
This is unequivocally a misuse of nonverbal communication. (And makes me get all stabby again. Someone take my pens away.) People can sniff out manipulation or inauthenticity a mile away. So not only is it an abuse, it’s a waste.
People respond to authenticity. Yet we often carry around stories about who we think we should be, or how we think we should act, and end up putting on some sort of “show.” These stories get communicated through our nonverbals, even if we aren’t aware of it. That’s why it’s pointless to coach someone how to communicate they’re the best person for the job, when they don’t actually believe they’re the best person for the job. Nonverbal “techniques” don’t make a bit of difference in an interview (or a courtroom, boardroom or classroom) if the message the person is trying to communicate isn’t authentic.
Nonverbal communication assists us in becoming more authentic in two ways: 1) It helps us identify the stories we inadvertently communicate nonverbally and, 2) once we align with our authentic message, assists us in communicating that message in the most clear way possible.
So who am I? I’m authentic. At least I strive to be on a daily basis. And I’m on a mission to assist others in being more authentic too. I invite you to join me.