It was tempting to do this one first, such is the importance of the message it carries. But, congruence parallels efficiency, a bit of a mouthful isn’t it! So, we started with something more straight-forward and here we are at our second instalment and I couldn’t wait any longer.
The quote came directly from the mouth of the great doctor himself, not from anything he’d written, but by me frantically scribbling notes as he explained something to a group of therapists. I got a lot from him like that and wished he’d written them down himself. The man has so much wisdom there must surely be one good book in him but when I asked him, he simply said, “You write it.” I am lucky to count Will among my friends and have known him for about 30 years. Remove from my brain what he taught me and what’s left wouldn’t be enough. I count him as one of five personal acquaintances who have been major influences in my academic and business life.
As a globe-trotting psychiatrist he might well have the credentials of someone with an insight into the human condition and what makes it tick, but that’s underestimating Will Monteiro’s contribution to all things psychological and psychiatric. Throw Sigmund Freud into the blender with Derren Brown and you’re getting close; the man’s a magician and his name will appear in this series again from time to time. If he’d lived a couple of millennia ago, he probably would have had disciples.
Congruence then, what’s that all about? In human behaviour, a state of congruence suggests alignment. You act with purpose, speak with conviction, focus without distraction, you are quite literally single-minded. And the important thing about this is how rare it is. There is little that we feel passionate about that doesn’t have some negative aspect, no matter how tiny and equally, there’s not much we oppose or dislike which isn’t slightly ameliorated by some saving grace, no matter how miniscule. Most things in life are a combination of qualities, good and bad, or good but with downsides, compromises or costs. Or bad but with something useful or worthwhile buried deep inside somewhere. Maybe it’s a fabulous holiday if it weren’t for the miserable airports, or a sports car except for the limited luggage space, or a football team except for the recent loss of a great player to a foreign squad. It’s all so normal we get used to it being just how life is, surely everything is like that, everything has a downside, a cost, nothing is perfect or pure is it?
When we think of things we like, love or enjoy, our bodies change because our emotional state has an impact on our behaviour. Of course, our bodies change when we think of things we don’t like too, but I’m focusing here on the difference it makes when you are passionate about a thing in a positive way.
Face-to-face communication is more than the words used to explain the concept. It is the (more important) tonality that delivers the words, the speed, volume, pitch, emphasis and rhythm. It’s also the accompanying behaviour, a list too long to make comprehensive here, but think primarily of the facial expressions and eye contact, pace of behaviour, body posture, head tilts and gestures and while words may be sometimes rehearsed, tonality tends to convey more inner truth and behaviour, even more than tonality.
So, if a person says something on the telephone, but their syntax is sort of, you know, kind of, um, well, basically not ever so definite, you can be left unconvinced. They didn’t sound sure, so you’re not sure. They weren’t convincing so naturally you’re not convinced. And why weren’t they convincing? Because they aren’t convinced either!
It doesn’t have to be on the telephone. A weakly worded email, “Some people have suggested that it might be time to begin thinking about…” is quite different to, “It is crucial that these steps be taken immediately,” when the aim is to generate action.
Now bring that person in the room. They hesitate, struggle to maintain eye contact, shuffle their feet and rub the back of their neck while stuttering out a half-baked suggestion. Why so feeble? Because they aren’t impassioned about it. Attach passion and you get stronger syntax, better word choice, more definite language, stronger adjectives, the pace picks up, the talker’s face looks different, eye contact is laser-like, they are a bit louder, more emphatic, you can see they mean what they say in their muscle tension, colouration, emphatic gestures and you have little doubt they believe it themselves.
To communicate at a high level (fast, lots of information received and understood so no misunderstandings) you need rapport, but with good rapport everything gets transmitted, the words, the tonality, the behaviour and the emotional state that supports the communication. It’s not the same thing by any means, but for the purposes of avoiding too many layers of complication, let’s assume there’s rapport in the situation. Now we have a sliding scale: a convincing talker, makes for a convinced listener. But what makes for a convincing talker?
This is as simple as it can be. A thoroughly convincing talker is one who themselves is thoroughly convinced. They believe.
It would be helpful to conclude that the stronger your beliefs, the more powerful your communication, but that’s not quite right. Assuming good levels of rapport, you’ll convey a pretty accurate model of your beliefs whatever their muddle. If you’re convinced about a thing, you’ll be more convincing, if you have doubts, you’ll be every bit as effective at conveying those doubts as you were about your convictions. This is why salespeople generate repeated patterns of objections among a variety of customers. The salesperson is the common denominator.
If the salesperson themselves has issues over aftersales service, the way they present that aspect and how they answer questions about it (and naturally they get more questions about aftersales service than their colleagues!) will leave doubts in the customers mind. It’s not a matter of how much they said about aftersales service, in fact the more they said, the more they revealed – through tiny incongruities – that there was a lack of personal conviction when compared to other aspects of the thing they were selling. Salespeople with doubts often try to overdo that aspect of the presentation and simply make the situation worse… because of a lack of congruence, do you get it?
Salespeople who have issues over cost get more than their fair share of price objections and salespeople who procrastinate get customers who won’t make their minds up. It’s like painful sales Karma.
So, congruence is the complete alignment of your communication; words, tonality and physiology, making a very powerful, passionate (congruent) style of speaking (actually more than just speaking – communicating as a whole). Your congruence is dependent upon your beliefs so ultimately, the more you communicate and the better rapport you have, the more you’ll give people an accurate insight into your beliefs. If they can be persuaded, this will do it. But did you persuade them of the thing you wanted, or just plant your own combination of potential benefits along with your own doubts?
Congruence parallels efficiency when it comes to achieving your outcome because if your outcome is to sell a product, the stronger your favourable beliefs are, the easier it will be to get your customer to that point too. If you don’t like it, you’ll have a harder job selling it. If you wouldn’t buy it or you wouldn’t recommend a good friend to buy it, again – difficult job. But if you love it, if it’s your favourite and you want one, if you would have one if you could or if you were in their shoes, then it gets much, much easier to sell.
Salespeople experience this all the time and sales managers notice the effect at work in their teams, it’s so natural it’s just accepted in some circles. But for any aspiring salesperson wanting to do well, don’t underestimate for a minute the power of this aspect of the way -human-beings function.
You can sell more by working harder (yes, do that if you want) and you can sell more by being congruent. Oh you should definitely do that!