Words that Open Doors

May 31 2015

by Laura Mixon Camacho

AEP-Charleston, SC-0327-May 27, 2013

Have you ever wanted to meet someone who was technically “out of your league”? (Oh hey, John Krasinski.) Have you ever wanted to snag a client who doesn’t know you exist, maybe Ivanka Trump or Karli Kloss?

Now the easiest way to get that door open happens with what Leapfrog PR’s Libba Osborne calls “a thoughtful introduction.” A thoughtful introduction easily glides into interesting conversation when the introducer has given both parties information on the other to skip that awkward “what do I say now?” part of meeting a new person. If you’re the one out there making thoughtful introductions for others, introduction karma will certainly come back to you and open some promising doors.

With or without a thoughtful introduction, at the beginning of a promising relationship you want to really pay attention to the details, especially in what you’re saying (or writing in that email.)

Never underestimate the power of the right words at the right time.

Different words can make you feel differently. If my son tells me he’s met a beautiful girl, I feel one way. If he tells me the girl he met last night is smoking hot….I have a very different feeling about it.

Remember in the childhood story about hidden treasure, you learned the key to open the door to the riches was saying “Open Sesame.” Similarly, most parents strive to teach their children from an early age that the words “please” and “thank you” have special powers. According to Dani McGrew, who teaches American Sign Language, even children younger than 1 year old can be taught to sign “please” and “thank you.”

If you are lucky enough to have attended the Southern C Summit last month, you got to hear some impressive (and witty) magazine editors, Robert Leleux, Tori Mellott and Eddie Ross, tell us to pitch them. (If you didn’t get to attend, my condolences, it was the most rewarding fun ever.) The point made was: Pitch to the media you want; not all pitches are equal.

As you know, when making choices among equally-qualified job candidates or investment pitches, the deciding factor often boils down to communication. It’s not enough to be articulate, we gravitate toward people who make us feel good. And making someone feel good around you has a LOT to do with your communication choices.

So choose wisely, my friend.

Three (easy) Ways to Choose Better Words to Open those Doors!

You may be unaware how many times you say or write “I” compared to the “you’s”. Ronii Bartles, Chief Rock Star of Bartles and Associates, has her clients physically count the number of “I’s” versus “you’s” on one of their website pages. They go into that exercise thinking that the website is fine, but by literally counting the pronouns, you can see how your writing is actually directed. According to Bartles, you should have 80% “you’s” and 20% “I’s” in any written marketing copy. But the idea of focusing on the other person’s perspective works for conversations too.

Look at some oh-so-innocent examples:

Not….I want to tell you about this.

Instead…..You want to know about this.

Not….I’m offering this.

Instead…..You might like this.

Not…..I am hosting this thing.

Instead….You are invited to my thing. Please come.

So before sending off any significant email, count the number of times you use “I” and you.” Edit the message to use “you” more often.

The key to this tip is remembering the name. There are all sorts of hat tricks to help you with this, from writing down the person’s name when you’re meeting for the first time to studying their business card. Everyone loves to see and hear their names.

Even in training the most technically-advanced professionals (aka brainiacs), I can tell you that in any group session, people warm up faster when they see their name somewhere in the room.

You can literally feel the difference in a classroom where the sign says “Welcome to Communication Training 101” compared to “Welcome John, Jessica, Jean, Jacob and so forth.”

You know you LOVE monograms. See how you can use your client’s name, or prospect’s name, especially in written form.

This tip involves taking the trouble to find out what the other person is interested in professionally, and tying those favorite themes to your pitch.

Someone who knows a thing or ten about pitching is Jackie Thomson, co-owner of Leapfrog PR. Her biggest tip is:

“Know your audience – do some research on the front end to better understand who you’re speaking to (if it’s a potential client or strategic partner) or pitching to (if it’s media). It’s so easy these days with the internet and Instagram to dig up personal details and context around a person or brand, so spend some time doing that before your meeting or crafting a pitch. It will pay off, I promise!”

Referring the accomplishments of the person you’re writing or speaking to impresses that person right away in two ways. First, we all want to feel appreciated for who we are. So if someone refers to my love of fashion, I feel immediate connection. AND…it’s impressive when people go above and beyond in their communication.

When you’re meeting people at an event, you can still focus on that person’s uniqueness. Sarah Cobb, owner of Mosa Boutique on King Street, shared her secret for building relationships when people enter her store:

“This applies to when I meet new customers in the store, or when I am out and want to meet someone – I try to come up with a genuine comment that pertains to something relatable. Are they wearing or carrying something with a certain sports team or brand that I love? Did I overhear them say something that I have insight or information on? Don’t make an overused statement about the weather or anything cliché.”

If you take the trouble to adapt your message to the other person’s preferences and style, (whether it’s one or 1 person or 100+), you communicate confidence that your work will be of outstanding quality.

These three approaches to opening doors are all about focusing on the other person. It all comes down to what my grandmother always tells me:

“Pretend the other person is wearing a sign that says ‘Make me feel important’.

She learned that from Mary Kay Ash, when she and Mary Kay both worked for the same home products company, a long long time ago.

Now it’s your turn.

Which door do you want to open?  untitled (4)

Photo courtesy of Arthur Ellis Photography

2 COMMENTS

Laura Mixon Camacho View More Blog Posts from this Author

Laura Mixon Camacho, PhD, is obsessed with communication as a tool for building bridges and careers. She believes all conversations should be carried out with style and imagination. And public speaking is just a special sort of conversation. Laura creates quirky communication workshops and she does private one-to-one coaching. She is the go-to coach if you want to improve your communication skills to move your business or career forward with more confidence, more impact and less stress. Read more at www.mixonian.com.

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2 responses on “Words that Open Doors

  1. Stacy

    Laura – these are very thoughtful suggestions and excellent ways to not only open doors but to also make yourself memorable to other people. Thank you for sharing your insights – they are absolutely on point. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go count the I’s on my website!

    Stacy Oldfield
    Minerva Management Partners

  2. Sarah Sofia Knepp

    Laura, yet another well written article with great advice! I am so glad we met, even if it was the last day of the Southern C! Being genuine and crafting your pitch is so important! Sarah, Sarah Sofia Productions, Event Design

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