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CHAPTER 24

What You Say and How You Say It

A man's character is revealed by his speech.

  -- MENANDER

The first step toward becoming a completely charming person is to become a great listener. Sooner or later, though, it will be your turn to speak. What you say and how you say it are essential ingredients in your ability to charm and persuade others.

Ron on Speaking with Charm

I have a delightful old friend, Cecil Williams, a successful theater director for many years. I acted in several of his productions. He was without doubt one of the most charming people I've ever met. He epitomized all the elements of charm that we've written about in this resource.

What most impressed me about him was the way he turned every word he uttered into a show of support, concern, interest, involvement, and caring. He had plenty of opinions of his own and many strong ones, but they were always communicated with respect -- as an exchange of ideas, not as competition.

An Essential Speaking Skill

There are several skills you will need when it is your turn to speak, and they'll be covered over several chapters. Let's start again with eye contact, but from a different angle.

Time magazine once scooped the other media and did the first major interview with Mikhail Gorbachev, the then visiting Russian president. His ability to communicate with power and forcefulness his ideas on economic and political reform was one of the major reasons he ascended to the presidency of the USSR. One of his strongest communication skills was noted by the Time reporter who wrote, "The first thing you notice on meeting President Gorbachev are his eyes, their intensity, their directness, and their power."

Few of us use eye contact well. Developing this skill is critical to increasing your ability to charm.

The Way You Look at People

The rules used for eye contact when speaking are different from the rules used when a person is listening. When you're in a one-on-one conversation with another person, look at the other person's eyes no more than 85 percent of the time. Maintaining eye contact all the time creates too much pressure. With that much eye contact, you virtually pin the other person to the wall. Instead of being charming, you come across as too intense.

How do you feel when someone is talking to you and never takes her eyes off you? It can be intimidating and even threatening. Notice the way villains in the movies use that kind of unyielding eye contact when they speak.

When you are speaking in a group, you should shift your gaze from person to person, gently, one person at a time. Use your eye contact to reach out and include people in what you are saying, as if you were scooping them into the conversation. Everyone you are talking to should feel the power of your warmth and attention.

Your Tools for Charming Others

Make a point of practicing good eye contact with anyone you talk to. Be sure you don't overdo it -- look at the other person's eyes no more than 75 percent to 85 percent of the time, otherwise you risk becoming overbearing. Look deep into the person's eyes rather than superficially. It's a definitive way of saying, "I see you!"

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