What You Say Before You Say a Word

Last week, I wrote about what I believe is the key to effective problem-solving. In fact, I called it solving the problem before the problem. That key is attitude. I believe that a positive attitude in the face of a problem affects how you approach it, which can set you up for a positive solution.

Today, to continue the conversation, I want to discuss another area where attitude makes a huge difference: communication.

As a communicator, I spend a lot of time thinking about what I’m going to say to help people. I prepare as much as possible to make sure my words add value to others. And yet, I am deeply aware that no matter how much I craft the words of a talk, there is one persistent message that everyone who comes in contact with me will receive. It’s the first – and most powerful – message I deliver.

What is that message?

You guessed it: My attitude.

More Than Words

Now, let me say that attitude certainly can be communicated through words. Everyone can choose to use words that lift up, encourage, and express a positive vision. And those words make a big difference in how the rest of the conversation or message is received. But it’s very important to remember that before we can ever say a word, our internal attitude is communicating something. And the message it sends is louder than any words we might choose.

And how does it communicate, if not through words? Through body language and facial expressions. If you walk into the office and slam the door, you’re communicating your attitude. The moment you walk into the house and slump on the couch, you’re communicating your attitude. And if you step up to a podium and with a scowl on your face, you’re communicating your attitude.

And in each situation, people are receiving your message loud and clear.

It Always Starts on the Inside

Now, this post is not about just making changes to how you carry yourself, or about pasting on a smile in order to appear happy. Those are superficial changes, and even if they fool others for a short while, your real attitude always eventually shows through.

The message I want to emphasize is the one that I shared last week: Attitude is a choice. Choosing a positive attitude is not always easy. And sometimes we’re tempted to just let a negative attitude flow. But when we do, it will show on the outside. And it will have an effect on our interaction with others.

An advisor to President Lincoln once suggested a certain candidate for the Lincoln cabinet. Lincoln rejected the recommendation, saying, “I don’t like the man’s face.”

“But sir,” said the advisor, “surely he can’t be responsible for his face.”

“Every man over forty is responsible for his face,” Lincoln replied.

The same is true for all of us, and it really applies at any age. I’m responsible for my face. And you’re responsible for yours. You choose your message when you choose your attitude. Choose a positive one, and your interactions are more likely to be positive. Your most persistent message is the one you choose to have in your heart and wear on your face.

Make it a good one.

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