Style is the collection of intangibles that people demonstrate when they are communicating with others. Style is the way people capitalize on moments and use them for the betterment of the relationship. Style is, at the most basic level, the method and approach you make relevant to your communication.
An impressive style is an intangible, but we all know it when we see it. People with an impressive style are impressive because they handle every issue through the eyes of the other person. They adapt their styles to the needs of others and the things happening at that moment. They are flexible and have what psychologists like Daniel Goleman call emotional intelligence. Goleman says there are four skills to master (and while we are all born with different natural levels of each skill, all can be practiced and learned):
- Self-awareness: Understanding your own emotions and motivations, as well as how they influence your behavior. When you are making a pitch or meeting with new clients, you need to be very aware of your emotions. Do not label every feeling as nerves or worry. Figure out exactly what you are feeling.
- Self-management: Controlling the impact your emotions have on your behavior. If you know exactly what you are feeling, you can work to control how you are expressing that feeling. Is your nervousness making you think more about what you want to say than about really listening to the person you are talking to? Are you so excited and happy about what you are hearing that you are losing your professional demeanor? Are you so afraid you will be rejected that you are giving up too early and not asking the insightful questions that would show your passion?
- Social awareness: Being able to see and understand the emotions and motivations of others. You need to accurately decode the communications coming your way. Is your potential client tense? Maybe you should say "I really appreciate your time, knowing how busy you are. I think we can do this very quickly." Is your client starting to look bored? Maybe you should speed up or move on to another topic. Is your client becoming frustrated? Maybe you should make sure you are listening as much as you are talking.
- Relationship management: Putting together these skills to connect, bond, and influence others. Your meeting, whether a presentation or a cold call, is the first opportunity to begin to build a relationship. You will continue to build the relationship with your actions after you leave by how you follow up and take the next steps.
As you can see, having emotional intelligence allows you to adapt yourself to the situation at hand (that is, the style of the person you are meeting with) but still remain in control of the messages you communicate through your style. Being flexible and responding to the situation at hand does not mean you are not being real.
Instead, it means that you can draw on the many different strengths you possess and choose the one that is most appropriate for the situation. For example, when I am in front of a client like future Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz and when I am in front of my mom, I demonstrate two different styles.
With John, I am a professional, a negotiator, an ambassador, and a businesswoman. But I must also weave through my communications that I can be someone he not only respects, but also enjoys. I am always "on"; I am always anticipating, reading, and responding. Because he is the client and I am not, I have to be very attuned to his interests. He is the guy that gets to decide how far to push the needle in a negotiation; we can make our recommendations and provide stats to support them. But in the end, it is his life and his contract, so the buck stops with him. My job is to make sure the relationship has been built on mutual respect so that our experience and advice is heard.
With my mom, I am her daughter. I can talk without anticipating, without perfect preparation and knowledge of her yesterdays and her tomorrows. There are few people in life that you can be transparent with as your life and career progress. Often in relationships anchored with unconditional love, you do not have to attend to your style as much.
Remember, relationships matter. People may look at your career stats first, but then they look for invaluable intangibles such as great style, which reflects your strong passion. And it is never too late to discover both.