While being the center of attention seems more natural to some people than it does to others, there are skills anyone can learn to become more effective communicators and leaders. The authors describe two types of messengers: hard messengers and soft messengers.
Hard messengers have status and possess one or more of these qualities:
- Socioeconomic position. These people are well known for having wealth, fame, or both.
- Perceived competence. Doctors, scientists, sports figures, and subject matter experts who emanate confidence command respect. People who appear confident are often presumed to be competent even without evidence of any expertise.
- Dominance. People who are combative, competitive, and aggressive can get people to listen to them. This can be a double-edged sword, though, and can repel as many people as it appeals to.
- Attractiveness. While this is superficial and unfair, it doesn’t just apply to models and actors. In an era of informality, dressing formally can help you to look your best and stand out in a positive way.
Soft messengers build a connection with others by showing:
- Warmth. Key traits include likability and concern for others. These people are encouraging and have a positive attitude when speaking to others.
- Vulnerability. We feel connected to people who sincerely share thoughts, feelings, or a compelling story with us.
- Trustworthiness. People listen to those who have built a reputation for being trustworthy. Trial lawyers who admit to a weakness before a rival attorney points to it win more cases. Advertisers who point out small drawbacks in their product or service before highlighting the merits can experience an increase in sales.
- Charisma. Optimistic, sociable, and approachable people command attention when they speak.
Many of the hard-messenger traits are tough for the average person to acquire, but the authors have many suggestions to improve your communication style. For example, people who use hand gestures are viewed as warm and energetic. People who use a lot of metaphors are seen as more charismatic. The authors’ observations are backed by research, and readers will find tools to become more effective communicators. Messengers has many real-life examples of the traits that make people successful or unsuccessful in communicating with others, which makes the book a quick and entertaining read.