Soft Skills and the Power of Intention

Posted on February 1st, 2019 by G. Riley Mills

Soft skills are in high demand. According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends Report, 92% of talent professionals and hiring managers said soft skills are just as important or more important than hard skills when hiring talent. Eighty percent also said soft skills are increasingly important to company success.

This report comes on the heels of LinkedIn’s end of the year skills companies need most in 2019 report. In this report, persuasion was the second most important soft skill because “Having a great product, a great platform or a great concept is one thing, but the key is persuading people to buy into it.”

Why Communicating With Intention Is Critical

As we highlight in The Bullseye Principle, persuasion is “a successful, intentional effort at influencing another’s mental state through communication,” according to Daniel J. O’Keefe, a professor at Northwestern University.

The two most important words in professor O’Keefe’s definition are intentional effort. Our methodology expressed as an equation is Intention + Objective = Persuasion. If you recall from our previous posts, objective is what you want. Intention is how you are going to communicate to get it.

Regardless of whether you’re pitching a product, delivering a presentation, running a meeting, offering constructive feedback, or having a one-on-one conversation, you must use a strong intention to deliver your message. Intention is a strong, one word verb that fuels the emotion behind your words and infuses them with meaning. When activated properly, a strong intention will inform all aspects of your communication—body language, facial expressions, vocal dynamics, and the rest.

Not All Intentions Are Equal

Imagine you are attending an industry conference and are in the audience for a keynote speech by a leading expert in a given field. Would you rather be excited by the information they are sharing or informed by it?

My guess is you selected excited. We did too. Inform, update, review, and report, for example, are generally low emotion snoozer verbs. They are sometimes called treadmill verbs because your communication can continue without end. According to psychologist Ann Latham, choosing a treadmill verb is a mistake because it provides “an open invitation to talk on and on with no particular outcome in mind” and “leaves most people bored and disengaged.”

This is why you should use verbs offering a high emotional connection when choosing an intention – empower, inspire, and excite, for example – to motivate or influence your audience to take action.

A Strong Intention Affects Your Audience

Case Western Reserve University conducted a study to demonstrate how intention physically manifests itself and affects the recipient receiving the information.

The study suggested intention was more than just a change in posture or body language. It suggested reaching an audience and connecting with them in any meaningful way required attuning energy. What does that mean? By focusing on your audience and projecting your intention toward them, there was an opportunity to create harmony in energy between you and your audience.

“When you send an intention, every major physiological system in your body is mirrored in the body of the receiver,” wrote Lynne McTaggart in her book The Intention Experiment.

The great acting teacher Stanislavski called this the communion between a speaker and an audience—the “invisible currents, which we use to communicate with one another.”

As you begin to consider your own individual communication and how you can start to incorporate an awareness of intention and objective into it, understand this: once your objective and intention are aligned, they will often do your communication work for you. Influence involves emotion, so it is important that people feel something as a result of hearing what you have to say.

To learn more about how we can help your managers and leaders improve their soft skills, please contact us.


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