The trailblazer of interviewing, who won 12 Emmy awards over a 5-decade career, teaches us 3 master lessons on how to leverage any conversation to your advantage.
“Barbara Walters’s superpower was fairness”, writes Matt Zoller Seitz (critic & writer for Vulture and New York). He continues, “Her subjects trusted her to give them as fair a shake as she could, even if she disapproved of what they did, said, or stood for.”
She exemplified an open mind and the ability to listen to the nuance of any situation.
“Barbara Walters, in my estimation, really has the quality of reaching through to the person,” Mike Wallace said. “She will put the person sufficiently at ease and it’s a remarkable gift.”
Looking at her interviews from every U.S. president and first lady from the Nixons to the Obamas to a wide range of celebrities and sports figures she creates rapport through her content and delivery.
They said yes to her when they wouldn’t say yes to anyone else because they liked the atmosphere Walters created onscreen.
Trust requires these three components working together: trust in yourself, trust in the process, and do your homework.
Walters nails this triad. And THEN she goes after the tough questions!
Excerpt from a Walters’ interview, “You’re a New York Times best-selling author, you’re an accomplished and celebrated concert pianist, and a three-time Academy Award–winning actor. Why the porn?’”
Ok – she also plays into the subject’s ego. She usually gave three compliments, and then went in for the kill.
Barbara Walters, who died recently at the age of 93, left a legacy about how to set the stage for a meaningful dialogue.
With 4 days left of this year it’s time to devour our best-of list – guaranteed to boost your communication skills even more in ’23.
◉ Find the humor. Even during drama-filled situations – funny stuff happens. Use this material in your conversations/presentations.
◉ Ask questions. You will be forced to listen more and you’ll learn more than if you’re doing all the talking.
◉ Read more. Fiction or non-fiction – you’ll gain insights and become even more articulate. Even a trashy novel can provide examples of how to use dialog, plot development, what makes for a good or dumb story.
◉ Reflect on your positive communication experiences in ’22. You do a great job of remembering in exquisite detail when you think you’ve failed at running that meeting, or facilitating the board discussion, or giving a speech to your shareholders. Think back on when you rocked on your platform(s). Not only will this make you feel great – but it has a positive rollover effect on your future gigs.
◉ Write more. I began writing this weekly blog years ago – kicking and screaming. I did not want to add this task into my weekly regimen. Now I realize it’s been one of my best communication habits. Writing makes you a better communicator. I am forced to observe with purpose… all the time… constantly mining for good info and stories. My friends live in fear of when they’ll be quoted here!
🥂 🎉 Thank YOU for being blog post readers and happy / healthy new year! 🥂 🎉
What should you get yourself in order to speak with confidence?
We @ Speak For Yourself® have curated the best gifts, by category, to help you check this quest off your gift-buying list.
A smile, good posture, and effective eye contact cost nothing.
Have you heard the phrase, “Fake it till you make it?” You may feel uncomfortable but you can appear as if you own Manhattan by your facial expression, stance and eyeball connection.
Clothing & Accessories
Buy clothes you love that fit the group and venue you’re speaking at.
Buy shoes that you can stand in, for hours, that look great. (Good luck.) For women – I’ve seen some fabulous post-pandemic glittery sneakers that have rocked the stage.
Buy yourself a Story Journal. Write down the funny stuff that happens. Keep a story log of events inside and outside your professional world. Then find ways to make these stories relevant when you run your company town halls / strategic retreats / quarterly zoom meetings. You will resonate more with your various audiences, which in turn will increase your confidence.
Besides the obvious – your computer, auxiliary cords, and remote wireless clicker if you use visuals, also purchase back up batteries, a decent pen, old fashioned note pad, and a thumb drive with your material (even if everything is in the cloud). Having your tech arsenal ready and available will add to your comfort level.
Food & Drink
Some of my clients beg me to agree that a shot of vodka will boost confident communication. No. That won’t work, and your holiday gift list to yourself does not include a trip to your wine store. Here are foods and a great drink that will boost your energy:
Some type of protein or a protein shake.
Easy food that will not drip onto your clothes like a piece of fruit or nuts.
(I always take a protein bar, a banana and some nuts to my speaking venues to snack on.)
Your best drink: room temp water to hydrate your vocal cords.
OK – chocolates are always a good thing to have on hand.
Can you think of other items to add to our holiday Communicate With Confidence gift list?
A client bought a new mattress and decided to take part in the mattress company’s focus group about the experience.
“Why did you buy this mattress?”, they asked. Reasonable question! My client answered, “I moved.” What she did not say was that she moved due to a relationship break up.
“How did you feel about the price of the mattress?”, they asked. Reasonable question! My client answered, “It was a fair price.” What she did not say was that she knew someone at the mattress company that extended an employee discount.
You never hear the whole truth.
The unsaid answers that my client did not share would have given more accurate information.
How can you glean more transparent data at exit interviews, strategic meetings, and annual reviews? OR… any day/time of the week?!
Listen between the lines.
The most effective communicators know how to use every tool at their disposal.
Ask questions and go three deep. Explore beyond the first answer given.
Observe nonverbal behavior. Look at gestures, stance, tone of voice.
Have an approachable attitude. Be present and focused on the other.
Smile. Always a good idea (but you don’t need to grin like the village idiot).
Use good eye contact. Be inclusive and look at everyone if there is more than one person involved.
You may still not hear the whole truth; but you’ll net a more transparent interaction.