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OK, trivia fans, what did I just say?
Ex-boy scouts, sailors, or ham-radio buffs will recognize those dots and dashes as Morse Code for SOS. And for the really trivia-obsessed, today is an SOS anniversary. On Aug 11th 1907, the first SOS distress signal was used by an American ship, the Arapahoe, off Cape Hatteras, NC. (You've got to love the History Channel's This Day in History for finding all things trivia like this).
Executive Communication Distress Signals
That SOS anniversary got me thinking about the distress signals managers or executives might send out when communicating with teams or colleagues. We can unknowingly send out SOS distress signs with our gestures, words or our demeanor. We unwittingly are saying, "I'm in trouble...."
See if you recognize some of the following communication SOS signals you might be sending in your own communications.
Tentative Language. Do you send out messages that say you're unsure or not certain? Every time you use, "I think" or "perhaps" or "maybe" or "might," you're sending a signal that you are not in authority. Think about it, did you ever hear President Obama say, "I think I have a strategy for the recession"? or "I might have a plan for the auto industry"?
Even worse are phrases like, "sort of" or "kind of." "We kind of have a network management problem." It's either a problem or it's not! It's like "kind of pregnant." Pick one: your're having a child, or not. If you are using these phrases, you're not just sending up a plain old SOS, this is a Titanic distress call!
Eye Contact. Especially when delivering a presentation, do you take a moment to have direct eye contact with at least some audience members? Great! Then you are NOT sending out any negative signals.
But when you speak, if you tend to look over the heads of your listeners or spend more time looking at your slides, then think about the message you're sending: I'm nervous and unsure and am not confident enough to look you square in the eye.
Hand Gestures. Here's another SOS signal: do you fold your arms in front of your chest? What about hands in pockets? Or standing with arms in front, hands folded one over the other? Your SOS says, I am NOT confident, I am NOT powerful, I am NOT in charge of anything, let alone my own gestures. Stand as if you owned the room! If you're speaking, you DO own it!
Once you recognize some of your own SOS signals, you can put a plan in place to eliminate them one at a time.
For business leaders, the only meaning SOS should have is "savvy, organized supervisor"!