How to Prevent Communication Missteps Tripping You Up

5 Ways Not to Stumble When You Are Communicating: Tango Lessons

22 July 2017

Tango Communication Lessons

The standard ‘how to’ of effective communication is easily accessible with every click of your mouse and swipe of your screen.

Communication standards are a great but they do not protect you from slip ups.

And what if you want more than blunder protection for yourself and your audience?

You yearn to inject a captivating element into your bog-standard communication style and boost your ability to connect.

Sadly, your longing will not be fulfilled by sitting in the corner wishing and hoping.

A journey beckons. Go on a cross-discipline adventure in search of inspiration. Keep your eyes peeled for discoveries that will help you lift how you communicate from staid to stellar performance.

This is your invitation to step to the edge of your discipline.

Let’s go to Argentina.

Imagine you are standing at the edge of an empty square in the capital, Buenos Aires.

You notice people beginning to gather around, chatting and waiting.

From your left, two couples sweep into the centre and strike a pose. The crowd presses forward in anticipation. The couples hold their pose. The spectators hold their collective breaths. Tension builds to break point. Only then does the music start.

What do you see?

Dramatic yet controlled movements.

Intricate steps performed with precision.

As the music plays, each couple expresses their unique style through improvisation and flair. The spectators clap and shout; their appreciation egging on each dancing pair’s distinctive interpretation of classic Tango steps, struts, crosses, hooks and turns.

The audience is captivated by a simultaneously intimate and public performance.

You may not speak the language nor understand the complex vocabulary of dance steps and poses; but the experience leaves you in no doubt about the message communicated and the meaning of the story shared.

You are witness to a matchless communication master class of passion and connection.

Is your communication style like a tantalising Tango or a terrible tangle? Click To Tweet

“Communication is like a dance. One person takes a step forward, the other takes one back. Even one misstep can land both on the floor in a tangle of confusion” Oprah

5 Missteps to Avoid When You Are Communicating

I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but let me say this. The way communication is led, shared, received and understood can cause operations and cultures to be fortified or crumble. In business, your path from “meh” to “magnetic” communication can be perilous.

“Better the foot slip than the tongue.” Benjamin Franklin.

Here are five lessons gleaned from Tango Masters. Avoid these five slipups and you will be tangoing your way to a graceful and compelling communication style. The kind of style that has a positive impact on your work relationships and the organisation you lead.

Pay close attention and you will be well on the way to communicating and connecting with passion and precision.

Misstep #1: Forgetting It Takes Two to Tango.

Mastering the Tango is a collaborative process, which demands and encourages the development of sensitivity, listening to understand, clarity, trust and respect between the leader and the follower.

Communication Fail. Without building trust your audience will not follow where you lead Click To Tweet

Misstep #2: Ignoring Fundamental Dos and Don’ts.

  • Do listen, watch and learn from communicators who have mastered their craft.
  • Do explore communicating using different media (offline and online) to reach your audience. Choose the media that resonates best with your audience and adapt your style to suit.
  • Don’t shy away from trying out different communication styles on the way to finding one that fits you perfectly.
  • Do steal smart style tips from others and be inspired by them.
  • Don’t mimic someone else’s communication style. Parrot-fashion is not a good look for you. People are unforgiving to the disingenuous and knock-off imitations of the original. A savvy audience will only take so much from individuals who look the part but don’t pass muster under close inspection.
  • Do be yourself. Caution, it is not so simple. Super connective communication demands that you be your true self; BUT as it relates to others. Hear me out. Compelling communication is not a solo performance. Your unique style is important but your ability to read and adapt to the energy of your partner(s) in the communication dance separates the pros from the untutored. Leaders, listen to your followers’ needs.
  • Do look out for subtle cues to how much they understand and connect with your message. Make the changes to the content, tempo and rhythm of your message to ensure your message is received and acted upon as intended.
  • Do remember your manners. In tango, ‘the leader’ invites ‘the follower’ to join them in the dance of intricate steps. The follower decides in what way the leader will accept the leader’s invitation. Communication is an invitation to connect. Are you are follow-worthy leader?

Misstep #3: Skipping Practise.

The importance of ‘practica’ in learning the Tango cannot be stressed enough. In these dedicated sessions, away from the real performance, students AND pros learn to build speed, confidence, and connection with their partner through repetition of basic steps.

Repetition builds muscle memory and when each learned foundation step is combined, together they create an unconscious, fluid, flawless dance.

There are no short-cuts or hacks to achieving flawless execution and a unique style in effective and compelling communication.

First, make time learn and master the basic steps. Show up every day. Put in the work in your writing, speaking, design, or storytelling.

Practise. Then practise some more until it becomes automatic. In the repetition you will find your rhythm. Follow the beat of the Tango – Slow. Slow. Quick-Quick. Slow.

As you become more proficient, you will build the confidence to improvise and add your unique spin to your communication style.

Misstep #4 Foot in Mouth.

Foot in mouth can strike even the most seasoned pros. Mistakes will happen and you will step on (your partner’s) toes as you learn to perfect your communication style.

You may say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Or you may unintentionally case offence or crush spirits with your words and actions (or lack thereof).

As soon as you discover your gaffe or someone brings your faux pas to your attention, take immediate and decisive action. This is your opportunity to lead strong. It is not the mistakes you make but how you react to them that will mean the difference in how you can move forward.

Apologise. Be sincere. Be specific. Learn from your gaffe and move on. By openly and honestly admitting and holding yourself accountable for your mistakes, you create an opportunity that allows everyone to learn and rise from them.

Your action will set the standard for your business culture and will be the behaviour model for your community to follow.

Less talking, more listening. There is good reason we have one mouth and two ears. Click To Tweet

Misstep #5 Failing to Build Trust and Respect.

It is here that many blow it.

Here is a quick lesson from the Tango. Mastering the intricate and compelling dance is a collaborative process, which demands a clarity of intent, and a bond of trust and mutual respect between the leader and the follower.

Imagine these two business scenarios.
1. When your business is at the idea or start-up phase; how can you attract talented individuals to join you, perhaps leaving the ‘security’ of an established job?

2. When you have to deliver bad news or lead uncomfortable change; why should your team follow you through uncertain times and choppy waters?

Your ability to create a force field of trust and make it felt each time you communicate and connect with your team or audience is critical.

It is the belief in the authenticity of your values combined with a faith in your capability that has the power to build trust and respect. The power to encourage someone to take a step or leap into the unknown; and see it not as a risk but as a chance to join something worthy and better is a huge responsibility that you must never take lightly.

Plain and simple; your word must be your bond.

It’s Your Turn

There you have it five ways to prevent communication missteps and gaffes from tripping you up.

Use these 5 Tango steps to dance your way into your audience’s hearts and minds.
Over to you now.

And don’t forget to pratise, practise, practise!

Oh and one more thing. Do share this post with someone whose communication is known for its two left feet style. Their audience and followers will thank you.

Until we meet again down The HR Rabbit Hole…






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