Communicate and Connect Through Story with Richard Newman, Founder of Body Talk
Jenn DeWall: Hi everyone. It’s Jenn DeWall. And in this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit podcast, I sat down with Richard Newman to talk about how to lift yourself and others through story. Now, I just wrapped up this podcast, and I am so energized by the things that Richard has shared. He is such a wealth of knowledge as it relates back to communication and connecting with others. I hope that you have the exact same experience after you listen to it. But let me tell you a little bit more about Richard. Richard is the founder of Body Talk. Over the past 22 years, his team has trained over 120,000 business leaders around the world to improve their communication and impact, including one client who gained over 1 billion— that’s a billion with a B— in new business in just one year using the strategies that Richard teaches. Now, I hope you enjoy our conversation as Richard and I talk about and discuss the mechanics of story and how to lift yourself and others through story. Enjoy!
Meet Richard Newman, Founder of Body Talk
Jenn DeWall: Hi everyone. It’s Jenn DeWall, and I’m so excited to welcome Richard Newman to the podcast. Today, we are going to be talking about what I think is really important right now. How to lift yourself– yourself– hear that leaders, you and others through story. Richard, welcome to the show. We’re so happy to have you! Richard, tell me about yourself. I have to ask the origin questions. I love them. Tell me how you came to be. Tell our audience who you are because you actually have a really, really cool starting story is how you entered the business, but please share with us how you came to be.
Richard Newman: Yeah, thanks, Jenn. I appreciate it. And it’s good to be here. Yeah, so my, my origin story, I mean, there’s, there’s a really long version and sort of a shorter version, but I’ll give you the key elements. So I’m 44 at the moment. My journey to where I am has really been the last 40 years. So what happened was when I was four years old, I was at school sort of at the pre-kindergarten age. And I was enjoying it. I had friends, and everything was fine. And then my parents moved house just before my fifth birthday. And I can remember feeling excited about the idea of going to this new school and meeting new friends. And I was even, I, my first vivid memory in life is being in this classroom age, sort of four and three quarters looking around thinking, wow, this is exciting to be here.
And then my next memory of that day is it’s a few hours later, and I’m sitting at this tiny little kids’ table on those tiny little chairs, and I’m trying to speak to the other kids next to me. And I’m getting no response. Speak to one child, nothing. Speak to another child, nothing. And I could see them all getting on with each other. I just wasn’t able to connect. I was like, come on. But nobody would connect. And so I felt like I was somehow disconnected from others, living in a glass bubble and did what many children might do if they were sort of feeling alone at that age and just burst into tears and thought, I don’t understand why I can’t connect with people. And that sort of feeling would go on for a long time of seeing people make friendships and build relationships. And I was missing something. There seemed to be something in the way for me. And it was around about when I was 16 years old, a friend of mine gave me a book on body language, and I read it, and I thought, this is it. This is what I’ve been missing in my life!
Jenn DeWall: Can we – before you go on because most 16-year-olds are not getting a copy of a body language book from their friends. Can we say that? <Laugh>
Richard Newman: Yeah, yeah, that’s true. That’s true. This was a friend of mine. Like she sort of gave it to me meaningfully, saying, you really need to read this because you’re not good at this. So here’s your birthday present.
Jenn DeWall: I love that, though. Like, I love your curiosity at 16 to be like, you know what? This is different than maybe a comic book. I’m trying to think of what, you know, you might have read at that time, but I love your curiosity at such a young age to think that, huh. Body language. Okay. All right, continue on. I just had to comment cause I was that, that interaction I’ve never observed between 16-year-olds before
A Journey of Self-Improvement Leads to a Tibetan Monastery
Richard Newman: <Laugh> yeah, well, you know, I mean, it was, it was so fascinating, and it was so I mean, something so unexpected for me to sort of reading and, and then suddenly be fascinated by that since then, I’ve been fascinated with personal development books and nonfiction books, learning, whatever I can. And I developed this fascination for it and thought, well, maybe this is an area that I could improve. And then, between then and sort of 10 years later, I read about 200 books on the subject of communication. But in between times to sort of take my communication to the next level, when I was 18, a lot of my friends were going off to university to do things, and I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do something to make the world better in some way.
And so I managed to get myself an opportunity to go and live in the foothills of the Himalayas, where I was living in a Tibetan monastery, teaching English to Tibetan monks. And the big challenge was that when I got there, I knocked on the front door of this monastery, and I met these monks who didn’t speak a single word of English. And I thought I’d gone there to sort of improve their English and didn’t realize, okay, you speak Tibetan, Nepali and Hindi. And I speak a bit of French and a bit of German, but I’ve got no language to communicate with you in. And I then had to figure out, okay, how do you communicate when there are no words to do it? And so I lived with them for six months, and I was doing lessons for them in the kitchen often during a blackout using candlelights.
And I managed to figure out that there is a way for us to connect with other people and to communicate through body language and tone of voice. And by the end of the six months, they could then speak a good conversation in English. I learned how to speak Nepali by the by, when I was there. And I just came back mesmerized by this ability, that is, it’s sort of deeper understanding of it than most people have. So most people might have seen, you know, glossy magazines or TV shows that talk about if you scratch your head, it means you’re lying. If you fold your arms, it means you’re defensive. And that’s a really superficial level of pieces that that may or may not mean those things. And so I found this deeper respect for body language, came back to the UK and then studied acting for three years. I was really learning how to sit, how to stand, and how to breathe in a way that would have an impact on other people on stage.
Understanding His Early Struggle to Communicate and Connect
Richard Newman: And again, it was very physical, very much about the nonverbal came outta there, fascinated by this, kept on studying it started my company to teach other people communication. And you know, here we are, 22 years after I started my company, and we’ve trained 120,000 people worldwide in this area. But to sort of complete the origin story, it was only a few months ago that I realized what the challenge was for me in the early days, as I’ve just recently been diagnosed with high-functioning autism. An autism diagnosis normally says, look, you are gonna have a challenge with communication. You’re not gonna get there. Most people are called neurotypical. They’re good at communication. If you’ve got high-functioning autism, it means that you’ll struggle to communicate with others. And you know, people sometimes come up to me now when I’m a keynote speaker at a conference, and there are a thousand people there, and I’m loving being there with them. And I, I sometimes get people coming up saying, Hey, you are a natural at this, but I never will be, you know, any advice. And I like saying to them, I’m not a natural. This is built from the ground up. And if I can do it, every person listening to this podcast can absolutely do it. You just need to know where you are and what’s missing and practice it enough to make it part of who you are so that then you can go and put it all into action.
Jenn DeWall: This is me being more speechless right now. <Laugh> not delaying intentionally. Well, actually, yeah. Intentionally delaying because to get a diagnosis like that later in life, I mean, how did you begin to process that? Was that initially like, you know, going into the place of, whoa, should I be doing what I’m doing? Or was it, did you go to that place of, wow, I’m really proud of how I didn’t even realize, but I actually pushed through, and I defied the odds. What was that experience? Like if that’s okay if I ask you about that, because yeah, yeah. It’s, I feel like there’s a lot of self-identity that’s wrapped into when we get a diagnosis. It’s, you know, we get to attach the meaning that it means to us and how we let it, you know, shape us.
Richard Newman: Yeah. I, I think you know, for me, there’s been a bit of a journey on this. It was about, I think, I wanna say like six or seven years ago that friends of ours who were planning on having children, they had autism in their family, and they were doing a test just to see, like, is this likely to be passed to our kids? And they said to us at a dinner like, oh, you guys can do it. You can go online, and you can take this test. And it’s like 80 questions. And you find out, you know, where you are, what propensity you have in this direction. And the highest you could score was 50. And that meant you are definitely neurotypical. And they all scored around 45. And I took the same quiz, and I scored five out of 50.
And I thought, oh, this is, this must be a joke. This is a hoax. Like they’re, they’re playing a game on me. I’m clearly not autistic. Because my view of autism was from back in the 1980s, the only thing that you’d get as someone being diagnosed autistic was really severe autism. That’s the only thing it included. And it was around 2010 that they really expanded what’s included in the diagnosis to where, you know, Asperger’s is included and various other things. And high-functioning is a sort of colloquial term that people have on this where the official diagnosis is an autism spectrum disorder. But high-functioning means you have the ability of speech. You have an IQ over 70 because some people with autism don’t have those things. But yeah, initially, there was total denial on my part. I thought I was sure that I was not. Then I did a podcast interview with a lady who specializes in early-stage communication.
And she’s dealing with, you know, five or six-year-olds. And after the podcast, I said, look, I’ve gotta ask you this. I think that there might be some challenges I’m having. Because she’d said that there’s 90% of people. They will always be able to communicate fine. Two and a half percent will have a permanent challenge, like permanent hearing loss. And then there’s seven and a half percent that may have some kind of struggle that they need to deal with. And I said I think I’m in that group. And we talked about it as I drove her back to the railway station after we did the interview. And she said, yeah, I think you’re in that group. You, you should look at this. And so it was a period of than I, I went to a lady who is the number one expert in her country.
She’d been leading autism diagnosis for 30 or 35 years. And we did this sort of long process to diagnosis. And when I eventually got it, there were a couple of thoughts that went through my mind. The first piece was just unraveling years of my life, thinking, oh, that’s why this happened. And oh, that explains this. And what about, oh, now I understand myself here. So there was that part, there was also a sense of a bit of vulnerability thinking what, like, what does this mean? Does this mean there’s something wrong with me? And then after that came, as you suggested, there just a sense of sort of pride in thinking. I actually now understand why I’ve been effective at teaching people communication. Because if you think about it this way, if you say to someone who’s been chauffeur driven everywhere, they go in their life, teach me how to drive.
They just say, I don’t, I don’t know, you get in the car and you arrive somewhere. I don’t know. Whereas if you ask someone who has had to learn from the ground up, like these are what the pedals are for. This is what the cogs do. This is how you fill up the tank. This is how you do all those pieces. And you say, teach me how to drive. They, they understand because they’ve had to learn every single piece. And same goes for me. If a client comes to me and they’re sort of saying, I don’t know what’s going wrong, I’m getting a bad reaction. I can watch them speaking for five minutes and say, it’s this, this is the piece that’s missing. And I know that because I’ve had to build that part for myself and it’s in all these books and we’ve got our own study that, that we published in the journal of psychology that shows you, these are the pieces that you need and that’s the one you’re missing. So it’s actually enabled me to have a different lens on life. And I’d say to anybody, who’s got this diagnosis or something similar that you might relate to, that it’s no point seeing it as a restriction on who you are. It’s actually giving you a unique perspective that you can bring to the game. And so I’d really encourage organizations to think, to have neurodiversity in your workforce because if people see things differently, they’re gonna bring something in that nobody else can see. And that’s what it’s been like for me.
Neurodiversity is an Advantage in the Workplace
Jenn DeWall: I love that like finishing point and thank you so much for sharing that story. But recognizing that neurodiversity is a huge advantage because we can’t, we all see things from our own unique perspective. And the more that we try to replicate one person’s unique perspective, the further we get away from innovation, you know, all of the things, right? We heard this on the podcast, but I just appreciate your perspective and really driving home. Why neurodiversity on a team and in an organization is so powerful and also explaining and giving. And hopefully, if someone’s listening right now that maybe recently had a diagnosis, whether it’s on autism or something else, recognizing that, you know, there’s the natural journey of how we can process that diagnosis. But then there’s this turning point where maybe there is a point of recognition of pride of saying, wow, I’m really proud of myself for what I’ve done. So hopefully, this is a point where they can see themselves in that positive light. And thank you for opening the door for that, Richard. I appreciate it.
Richard Newman: You’re welcome.
Jenn DeWall: So now we’re gonna talk about, I mean, I feel like it was a perfect example of how to lift yourself and others with story. I mean, was, I don’t even know. We didn’t plan that— to the audience— but that was an example of thinking about, you know, we all get dealt certain cards, and not all of them are easy. Everyone has a struggle, and you know, how do we want to rise? How do we want to use that? How can we use the power of the story? So why is storytelling important? Ket’s level set. Because I think there are still some people that might look at storytelling, I guess from my perspective, it might be, I don’t have time to tell you a story or even think of a story. I don’t even know a story. Why would I say that? And I got to get to this next meeting. So who really cares? But let’s level set and talk about it. I mean, that is a perfect example. Hopefully to level set us into like how storytelling can help us connect with one another, but why is storytelling important?
Why is Storytelling Important?
Richard Newman: Yeah. So, so storytelling, this is something that’s been a, really a buzzword around business for say 10 years, at least everyone’s talking about it. And the challenge about it is that so many people talk about it. And a lot of people think that they’re doing it, but they’re actually not doing it. There are a lot of theories out there about it, but they are so theoretical that it’s hard for anyone to put them into action. And I had the privilege of interviewing at one point Robert McKee, who’s seen as the godfather of screenwriting in Hollywood and 60 of his students have gone on to win academy awards or rather his students have won 60 academy awards, I should say. And so he really knows what he’s doing there. And he puts it like this. He says, if you go and watch an orchestra play a piece of music, you wouldn’t come away thinking, do you know what? I bet I could? I bet I could design a perfect orchestration of music. But the funny thing is with storytelling that people think, okay, yeah, I’ve heard stories. I’ve been listening to stories since I was a child. So, therefore, I can clearly immediately design the perfect story.
So there, there are skills to be learned there that people need. It’s not just about— importantly, it’s not about telling an anecdote. It’s not about telling people what happened on your weekend or finding a historical message that will serve your next meeting. This is what storytelling is. Storytelling is the way the brain wants to receive information. That’s it. And if you think about the three major areas of the brain that we need to light up, you’ve got the survival mind, the emotional mind and the logical mind. And if you tell someone a story, it lights up those three areas in that order. And that’s how the brain wants to receive information. So going back to, you know, thousands of years–
Jenn DeWall: Can I ask a quick clarifying question on that? So Crestcom has a class that we talk about the power of storytelling, and sometimes the pushback that we get is maybe from someone that has a more analytical brain, that might be like, well, I don’t, the story might be too confusing. That’s too much time. I wanna get to the facts here. What would you like if the foundation is that storytelling is the way that the brain wants to hear information? What would you say to the analytical in the room? That’s like, no, I want you to just focus on giving me that short data point, why I’m doing this and let’s move on.
Connect Through Story to Overcome “Screen Fatigue”
Richard Newman: Yeah, you, you get, you get a lot of people who say, wait, wait, wait, we should just do it this way. So, so here’s a really simple way to understand why that’s not going to work. If you think about the last couple of years, how many people have you heard that have said they are suffering from screen fatigue too much time in front of a screen, like Zoom meeting fatigue, Teams fatigue, like so many people say, oh, I’ve got this screen fatigue. I can’t bear it. But here’s what they do. They get to the end of the day, and they close down their laptop. They’re so tired of being in front of a screen. They go into their living room, they switch on Netflix, and they’re then watching TV for the next three hours. It’s not screen fatigue. This idea of screen fatigue is not there.
What it is is severe cognitive fatigue from experiencing death by PowerPoint on a laptop. And so what’s happened is that we used to be in these meetings. We’d walk out and go, oh, death by PowerPoint, severe cognitive fatigue from facts, data, graphs, analysis, and people that have two cups of coffee and go into the next meeting of severe cognitive fatigue. Because someone’s just saying, right. Here are loads of facts with no sense of a journey them. And so diving in straight to the facts is demolishing your message. A and so if you go in that direction, you’re gonna spend time preparing the meeting. And you’re gonna find that a week later, people don’t remember anything that you said. Whereas if you go in from the concept of a story, all this means is that essentially you’re going in with big picture details and actions. That’s where you want to think of this. If that makes it easy. And when we teach students this, we share with them a system where we say, look, by the time you get good at this, you could spend two minutes before your next meeting creating the story. And you’ve got something that’s concise, it’s easy to follow. And it’s really memorable. And what you’re aiming to do is, first of all, light up that survival mind, let people know why they’re in the room. How is this gonna affect the greatest challenges that they’re dealing with right now?
Jenn DeWall: I love this connection that you’re breaking down. So for those that are following, and you’re thinking this through. So you talked about the three areas of the brain before I interrupted you with my curiosity question. So the first area of the brain that it hits is the survival brain. And so it’s tough. That’s answering the why for them. I just, I love this. Okay. I’m in. I’ve got my coffee. I’ll be quiet now.
Richard Newman: Great, great. So yeah, it’s giving them a sense of a why, which is not speaking about your problems or what you want to talk about, which is where most people go wrong. Like they, they open up their notebook or their laptop, and they think, what do I want to say? And immediately, you’re in the wrong direction. A meeting is never about what you want to say. A meeting is about figuring out what this person’s concern is? What are their challenges? What do they care about right now? And how do I connect my information to this? Because if you can’t, they’re not going to remember. They’re unlikely to care or to keep on listening. So you’ve got to connect it to that. The second thing you need to do, for anyone listening, thinking to themselves, Yeah, I do that. I go into meetings. I talk about the challenges, to begin with.
Here’s what people do next. They say, okay, look, I understand you’ve got challenges. Here is my solution. And instantly, they’re going into the cognitive fatigue mode because they’ve jumped beyond the story. That’s not storytelling. That’s just telling if you do that sort of thing, saying, here’s a challenge here. Here’s the solution. That’s not how stories work. So if you look at any story, just turn on a movie this weekend, and you’ll find that you start off, you, you figure out who the main person is, what their life is like. And you notice they’ve got challenges that they are struggling in their relationship or money or in their career or something like this, or maybe the planet is under some severe challenge. <Laugh> right. So, so we go into this sci-fi pieces. And then the next thing that happens is not the solution- deadly boring f that happens.
The next thing we see is a brighter future, where you get that sense of like, this is what you could gain. If you keep on listening to this story, watching this movie, reading this book, by the end of it, this wonderful thing may happen. You generally get that in the first 10 pages of a book, maybe a bit more, certainly the first 10 pages of a movie script, that’s where you’re going to get. And if you can do that in the first 30 seconds of a meeting, you’ve got people where you say, look, I understand you’ve got these concerns by the end of this meeting, or by the end of the next six months, what if we could achieve this? And they’re in, they understand the survival mind says you’re gonna help me avoid pain. The emotional mind says you’re gonna help me gain pleasure.
I’m listening. And I now know why I’m listening. Then you hit them with facts. And then the logical mind is lit up and understands what it needs to be listening to. Even to the point where if you look at Daniel Kahneman’s book, which is Thinking Fast and Slow, what he describes in this great work, he sort of says that the emotional mind gives a memo to the logical mind and says, this is what I care about. Pay attention and give me stuff that is logical, that backs up what I already am feeling.
Compelling Stories Connect to 3 Parts of the Mind – Survival, Emotion and Logic
Jenn DeWall: That, that right there, I think is I’ve never, I’m loving this conversation. I can go on for five hours. Because I feel like I have so many questions for you. But I feel like I just wanna stop to say to a leader to think like it is passing a memo. Like, so think about your audience, the people that are listening to it. I guess the one piece of advice I heard, and you can discount it, but it helps me level set that the audience, like you have a three-second timeframe. And I know it’s not, it’s probably, you know, longer than that, but to tell them why to care. Otherwise, they’re like back to your thinking about, you know, what they have to do that day, their task. But I love the concept or that just that visual of thinking about like, no, the second that you actually pull them in, they send the memo that says, okay, I wanna listen. It’s like, you need to give them the memo to their brain to pass on to their brain, to like check in. Okay. Keep going. I’m sorry, I love it- that might be the trainer in me that like keeps like level setting, like anchoring some of these activities and actions just because I think they’re so important.
Richard Newman: Yeah. Yeah. So, so instead of being in a situation where, you know, the logical brain’s thinking, I don’t know, this is like just a missive fact. I don’t know why it’s relevant. I don’t know why I should care. I’m really trying to pay attention. The logical mind has been set up to a point where it goes, I know why I’m here. I know what I’m looking for. I can analyze the data better. I can remember more of it because I can put it immediately into the big-picture context of what it’s all about. And once you get to the end of that, what a story also does, if it’s effective, it lets you know how to start the journey. It says, look, these are challenges. This is a better future. This is a fact you need to know. Here’s the first step of the journey. And if you do that with people, you can do it.
I mean, if you just watch a commercial, you’ll see them do it in 30 seconds flat! Where you’ll see somebody who’s having a challenge right now and things are going badly, and they sense a better future. You learn some science about the product that they’re using. And at the end, they say buy yours today. And they do it in 30 seconds. So you can do it in a meeting. You can do it in a boardroom meeting. If someone says, Hey Bob, what’s your view on this? You can come out with it in this direction rather than saying, well, fact A, fact B, and fact C, which is deadly boring. Instead, you can give it this sense of big-picture context, then details, then action. In a way that everyone in the room will listen and really care about your ideas.
So to think about it this way, I’m sure everyone can relate to that is listening to this. Think about it, have you ever been in a situation where you shared an idea in a meeting, and everybody said no. No, I’m not really interested. And 20 minutes later, Jim shares the same idea, and everyone goes, Jim, that’s a great idea. Why didn’t anybody say that? And you’re sitting there thinking what was wrong when I said it. And the challenge is that if you just dive in and you go, here’s the idea, here’s my facts straight out of context. People don’t understand it or why they should care about it. Whereas it’s possible that when Jim has got around to saying his version, they’ve got that sense of really what they’re looking for. And they’re able to tune in and make a decision on it.
Jenn DeWall: Setting the stage, setting the stage. And that’s a, I mean, yeah, I think that people most often just go to perform instead of setting the stage and the importance of that, because I’m sure that there are a lot of people that are like, they took my idea. They thought theirs was so great, but really it was that you didn’t set the stage. I think that’s a valuable point of why preparation is so important. And you said it earlier, it could be two minutes before a meeting. You’re not saying that you know, of course, you can spend more time, and you can really flush this out depending on what you’re doing. But if you are short on time, you can think in two minutes, you know, how can you connect this for them? What is the big picture? What is in it for them? I love that!
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Jenn DeWall: So where people miss the mark, I know obviously is data by just like starting with data or, you know, just diving into it. Are there any other ways that people miss the mark? Is this where we start to then think about even the body language aspect of that or–
Richard Newman: Yeah
Jenn DeWall: Yeah. Let’s, let’s go into it.
Communication and the Power of Threes
Richard Newman: There there are a few other pieces. So, so firstly, you sometimes get people in a meeting who say hi to everyone. I wanna talk you through my 15-step plan. And by the time they get to step six, you’re thinking, I just, I can’t remember this. It’s like a conveyor belt of information. There’s no way for me to pay attention <laugh> to this. So we’re very frequently talking to people about the rule of three saying, look, you might have 27 things you need to share. That’s okay. Just see if you can find a way to box it into three major themes or three major areas. Because again, the human brain thinks 1, 2, 3 loads, and it just gets lost in the information. So storytelling, you know, does this all the time. That’s
Jenn DeWall: Like the practice that I got is like, I got it from a leader that I’d worked with that I– here’s a news flash– I got it from a leader that I worked with that I didn’t even love that. Well, but here that just says that every person is your teacher and your student. He always said to me, like do everything in three. Don’t do more. Otherwise, they’re gonna tune out. <Laugh>
Richard Newman: You can see this on the news as well. If you tune into, you know, your favorite news channel this evening, then you can see that the news anchor starts off the show and says tonight’s main headlines, and they give you three. They don’t give you seven because you just get lost. They go; here’s three. And there’s, there are thousands of things that have happened today around the world. They could have reported. They say here’s three. They then guide you through those three. And at the end of the show, they say to recap, tonight’s main headlines are these three things. So using that in very serious situations, but you know, just to give people confidence on, on this in putting it into action, there was a lady who came through storytelling training that we were doing. And we worked with her for about maybe an hour on this, something like that, going through this grid system we teach.
And she said, before we did any coaching, she said, I’m really sorry. I have to go. And she came back 30 minutes later, and she said, it works! Like it actually works. And it’s that fast. And we said, where have you been? And she said, well, I’ve been I’ve just been doing this conference call with my team, and I speak to them every Friday, and there are 20 people, and they’re based in different locations and we’ve been disagreeing with each other for the last six weeks on what it is we should do to move forward. And I kept on sharing my idea, and nobody was interested. And she said, before I went on this call, I only had two minutes. I grabbed a piece of paper that I found in the corridor and jotted down my idea, using your storytelling system. And everyone agreed in 15 minutes. It’s the same idea I’ve shared for the last six weeks. So that’s the power of understanding how to do this. The power of story is not like going into fiction, make-believe, telling dramatic events from your life or your story. It’s just getting that. When you share information, you need to do it in a way that the brain wants to receive it.
Jenn DeWall: So it’s not necessarily, from your perspective, it’s not necessarily taking, you know, the story of resilience that you’ve heard of. Like, I don’t even know who to pick right now in resilience. Because I don’t wanna alienate any of our audience, but let’s say there was an in a public figure that fell from grace and then they’re working to rebuild. Like you don’t necessarily have to share this outward-facing story. It’s just taking your internal story of your team and your struggle like right now, you know, we have all been struggling with capacity issues and resource issues, and we’ve had to take on a lot, and I know that you’re burnt out, but what we’re working towards with this new system is to be able to at least free up, you know, your time. So you can go back to that 40-hour work week. Is it that? Did I do an okay story there?
Connect Through Story by Addressing the Audience’s Concerns First
Richard Newman: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, I’m really keen to get that across because some bit times people think, okay, Richard, storytelling, that’s nice. But what I need to do next week is to share my spreadsheet with the leadership team. So, you know, so I’m not saying what you should do is go in there and say hello, leadership team. There’s a story about the industry coming from the 1850s, where there was a farmer called Bob. Like you don’t have to do that instead. You just need to know the angle that you gotta go into the brain to make it pay attention. It doesn’t have to be some, you know, great story, some epic that you go through. It’s literally thinking, okay, if I break down this information, how do I make sure they care? What are their concerns at the beginning?
Where are they aiming to get to in the future? How do I take them on a journey that helps them get there? And how do I break it into three major pieces? And when you start to do that, when you understand how to do it, we’ve actually got a company. We worked on a major telecoms company where we got, first of all, their insights team was about 50 people dealing with data from around the company. And they said we’ve got all this data. We don’t know how to help people make decisions. And we said, well, turn all of it into stories of information. And then they actually went so far as to send every email that they sent to each other using the storytelling system. And they said, this is ridiculous. It’s made us so much more efficient because before we open the email, we know what it’s about and what we need to do.
We get in there, and we get all the information we need in the right order. And then we, we respond and we can get through 80 emails an hour. Whereas previously, we’d be reading an email thinking, was I just copied in, do I need to actually do something here? Like, what is this email even about? And you get lost. So, you can use this every single day for different types of communication. You have email, phone calls, and meetings. So don’t wait for when you get invited to do a Ted talk to tell a nice story like this is something you need to do in your Monday morning meetings and in the document that you’re writing on Tuesday.
Jenn DeWall: So is, are there times when you would say like, don’t do story where you’re like, you know, is that when you’re like mind the time be mindful of that? Is this really like, do you have any things on like, these are the times that I actually would say don’t use the story, but, but it sounds like actually, you can use it. It’s just that you can adjust to the time of it, the, or the duration and maybe the details of it. I don’t know. What’s your take on like how to flex story?
Richard Newman: The thing is if someone asks you a simple question, like where would you like to go for lunch today? You, you don’t say, look, here’s, here’s the concern when I was in school… <Inaudible> <laugh> you can’t go into that. You can just say I’d like Chinese, <laugh> go into that piece. So if it’s a direct question like that, but if somebody comes up to you in the corridor and they say you know, Hey what, what are your views on this client? Then that’s a place where if you want to, you can get, you can have a place of influence. And if you just say my view is X, they could walk away going, oh, I don’t really understand that. And why would he say that? And that’s a bit abrupt. I don’t think I like him anymore. Like all sorts of things happen.
Jenn DeWall: <Laugh>, that’s exactly what could happen.
Richard Newman: <Laugh> right. Or you could take 30 seconds and frame it in the context of big-picture details, actions, avoiding pain, gaining pleasure, or going on a journey. And when you get good at this sort of thing, then you know, you can start to do it immediately in different situations. So it doesn’t have to take time. In fact, what we found with our clients is it massively reduces time where normally they’d be spending hours every month creating PowerPoint slides filled with bullet points that no one is ever going to remember. Most people won’t read half the bullet points that are put on there to begin with. And then they, they think actually I’ll use story. I don’t need 90% of those slides. I can put it like this. Everybody understands. Everyone remembers. And so, yeah, I’m really pleased the efficiency this brings in for people it’s not more work, it’s actually less.
Jenn DeWall: Well. And I wanna, I wanna add on two things, like I, again, I could have a five-hour conversation or longer than that. Probably you’re like, Jenn, I’ve gotta walk my dog, anything to get outta this. What are the elements? Because I, I heard you just kind of say like pleasure and pain. Would that be considered an element of that story as it relates to them? Like, you know, how the elements of the struggle is that what that would be or the mechanics of that?
Connect the Story to Your Audience
Richard Newman: Yes. So, so a key point actually for, for people to understand as well. And this is something that so many people get wrong is who is the hero of the story? Every story has a hero that has heroes challenges and the hero has goals. And the hero goes on a journey from their challenges towards their goals. Most people in, in day to day work, they tend to think of themselves as the hero of the story, which is understandable because every person is the hero at the center of their own life experience. They have challenges, they have goals. So does everybody. But when you go into a meeting, every person in that meeting is the hero at the center of their own life experience. They have challenges, and they have goals. So if you go in talking about you, your challenges, your goals, they’re just not gonna get it. So instead, you have to go in positioning the conversation, understanding that whoever you’re speaking to is the center of the information, the center of the story. And if you can do that, then suddenly they will go with you on this journey because they know why it relates to them.
Jenn DeWall: I love that. It’s well, and it’s just that reminder again that people don’t really care what you say. If you don’t invite them into your conversation. I also appreciate that you and I can joke about maybe what people are thinking during the meeting. And people do want you to like succeed, but like what people might be thinking of like, oh gosh, I’m tuning out now. I can’t do this. And so let’s tune into body language too, because I think that even if there are some people that can explain that, I know that I can be impacted based on I’m gonna describe it as how I can see their ego show up through their body language. Like, cuz I can be very easily influenced by, I guess the perception that someone is kind of like pushing out this like I’m better than you like stuff. Yeah. Right. And then I’m actually less than glad to even listen to any words that come out of their mouth. Is it okay if I ask you some quick, you know, those nonverbal communications, things that could you, that we have to pay attention to when we’re telling the story?
How Body Language Helps or Hurts Communication
Richard Newman: Sure. Yeah. So, we published a study on this actually to figure out, is there a universal way of improving yourself as a storyteller, improving yourself as a communicator? And I’d looked at so many books on this, and by this point that we did the study, we’d already trained tens of thousands of people. We wanted to get a validated study. We spent 18 months on this. We worked with the university college of London who are sort of world renowned for their research in this area. And eventually, we came up with this study, we believe is the largest of its kind where we found out that if you change a couple of key aspects of your body language, you can say the same words. You can wear the same clothes, but you just change a couple of key things.
If you go from the most common habits, you see people doing day-to-day across to what we found was more effective. You can increase how good a leader people think you are by 44%. What, which you’re saying the same words, you’re the same person. And you can increase that by 44%. We also found this. We haven’t been able to attest it with a presidential candidate yet, but we found from the study that you can increase the chances of people voting for you in an election by 59%, just going from common habits people have day to day to what were the most effective styles. And so and so that there are simple pieces that people can do. So, so firstly, to come back to your point, Jenn, where you were saying about someone puffing up their chest, sometimes people think, okay, I’m gonna have good body language. I will take the stage in this situation. If we feel like it is disingenuous. If we feel like it is faked in some way, it’s a massive put-off.
If we feel like the person is putting themselves above us in some way, puffing out their chest, taking up sort of spreading across the room or the desk or the area too much. That then again, it puts us off. It strikes us as arrogant. What actually works best is–if you think about it like this, most people think that they are just being themselves when they communicate. And actually, they’re not. If you hear someone saying, Hey, don’t, don’t change me. Don’t change who I am. I’m just being myself. Actually, they’re not being themselves. They’re being all the habits that they have built up in their life since they were a child that they are now using every day. And that feels like them. It feels like their identity. But in, within those habits, they’re very often doing things that are going to disengage people from listening to them.
Working with Gravity to Find Your Gravitas
Richard Newman: So a really common one just to give you would be, if someone’s standing at the front of the room, you’ll so often see this and, and you know, you come across so many people who say, yeah, that’s me where if they’re speaking to a group, they’ll just start to sort of sway from one hip to the next, moving, shifting their weight across from one foot to the other side and back and forth when they’re speaking. And they’ll say to you, oh, I do this because it makes me feel comfortable. And the challenge is, if you do it for more than about 30 seconds, it becomes like this pendulum effect going back and forth and people start to feel very sleepy. So it’s no good for that reason. But also what you’re doing is if you’re leaning just off to one side, whether you’re sitting down or standing up, gravity is pulling you off balance and you look like a pushover, which is this term of somebody being sort of weak in their opinions.
And so imagine doing that, if you’re speaking to your team and you’re leaning to one side or you’re shifting your weight from one foot to the other, and you’re saying, Hey everybody, I really need you to cancel your plans tomorrow night because we’ve got a big deadline coming up. They’ll think, okay, I hear you. I heard the words, but you look like a pushover, so I’m not gonna do it. Cause I don’t think I really have to. And suddenly, they dismiss your words. What you actually need to do is get rid of all these habits, these sort of comforting habits that come up and get back to how you were born to speak and how you’re born to speak is that when you initially stood up as a child, you can see this with one-year-olds. What they do. I’ve got a couple of kids. So I’ve seen this in real time. When they’re about one year old, they try and stand up. And if they stand up with their feet too wide apart, they fall over. If they stand up with their feet together, they fall over. If they stand up, leaning on one hip, they fall over. But eventually they work out.
If I stand up in a way where I’m about shoulder width, parts, I’m equally balanced between light left foot, right foot, toes, and heels. Gravity is now on my side and I can stand and I can be centered. And if I puff my chest out, I fall over. If I slouch back, I fall over, but I can be in this position where gravity is with me. And this is where people get that term gravitas talking about the way that they communicate.
Jenn DeWall: Oh, no kidding. I know the origin. I mean, I know presence, but I never knew the origin of that. Oh my thank you for, I mean, you’ve already taught me a lot today, but thank you for that. <Laugh>.
Richard Newman: No, yeah, no worries. Because people often think, oh, it’s a big mystery. This gravitas gravity needs to work with you and you. So you need to get rid of the affectations and tension in your body. Any habits that are holding you back from that and come back to how you were born to stand. And once you do that, and we’ve seen this on the videos that we did, where if you just, I mean, if you just simply go from standing saying words where you are with your feet together. So you’re in, what we would see as a low-status position. You say the same words you wear the same clothes. You just move them to the point at which you have feet, shoulder width apart, not spreading them, not going too wide, but just in a comfortable, balanced position.
The way that people go is that the number of people convinced by your message jumps by 32% because they know when you got your feet together, you can push the person over. They are a pushover. When you stand grounded, they know that the, from a subconscious reaction to your posture, they know that gravity’s working with you. If they gave you a push, you’re not going anywhere. And so suddenly, you have this gravitas behind your message and nobody thinks, wow, your feet are wider apart. I better take this seriously. What they see and what they feel is you have gravitas. I’m paying attention. I will cancel my plans. I will do that job for you tomorrow. So it’s, it can be that simple in some of the shifts that people make.
Jenn DeWall: <Laugh> my mind just is very blown. And I think I, because we are seeing each other right now to our, to our audience, we Richard and I can see each other. So then the thoughts in my head are, am I doing it wrong? I’m sitting this way. What’s going on? And it’s not like I asked you for a perfect self-assessment, Hey, by the way, can you diagnose me with my communications and body language challenges, but I’m naturally now like thinking, am I doing that? What do I do? I definitely I’m sitting right now. And I had it where one foot was up actually on the chair I was sitting on that foot and one was down. And I’m wondering like, did that impact how I communicate? Does that impact how I communicate? It’s just,
Before You Speak— Get Grounded
Richard Newman: Yeah, that’s a good question, actually, just to jump into, because you often see that where people are slightly off balance and they don’t know why. And we often talk to people about get that sense of being grounded. Feel the ground underneath you. If you’re feeling nervous and about to go on stage or nervous and about to go into an interview, get your feet on the floor. So even if you need to be sitting towards the front of a seat to do it, just feel your fleet feet on the floor and get your, what we call, get your weight into your feet. And what that means is that you could stand up from that chair without pushing with your hands. So your weight is in that position where you’ve got gravity on your side, but you also feel grounded in the same position. And so, but it’s a very common thing for people to be doing when they are sitting, if it’s virtual or if they’re, they’re sitting in a boardroom,
Jenn DeWall: Oh my gosh, Richard, Richard, this is a bad story, but I can tell you, like, I sit like that often. And I was at a board meeting for NSA- or National Speaker’s Association. So I used to sit on the board for that. And I turned around from the conference table and I was sitting like that. And because I didn’t have my, you know, grounding, I fell into the president of the association.
Richard Newman: <Laugh> oh, no way.
Jenn DeWall: It was not only my first impression with a lot of the people on the board. First time meeting them face to face because we’d only ever met virtually. And I was like, should really pay attention, know I’m sitting. And now this is coming full circle. Like you really need to pay attention to grounding. And I hope I say that as if, if you spilled coffee on yourself today, hopefully, you didn’t fall on the president. So you’re good. Like <laugh>,
But the reminder, but I, I love that of thinking. Richard, I’ve really enjoyed our conversation, and I don’t even know, did we, do we miss anything that you think our audience really needs to hear as it relates to how to lift yourself and others with story? Because we talked a lot about the mechanics of story, which a lot of people miss and really important things accessing to three points of the brain, recognizing why, how you have to start with inviting them in or setting the stage talking about, again, grounding yourself in your own body language. What else did we do, there’s so much to cover, but I guess today like I want, I would love to have you back. I would love to talk about any topic that you have as it relates because you are a wealth of knowledge that I hope that I know. I know people are walking away listening to this, like, yeah, I can do this. And feeling empowered and inspired to deliver a message in a different way. And thank you for that gift.
Richard Newman: Yeah. Well, I like to break it down and make it really easy for people to remember. There’s, there are certain pieces we’ve missed. I’d love to come back and talk to, again, there’s with my team at Body Talk. There’s like 60 hours worth that we teach people we’ve covered like a few tidbits here. But if I was to leave you with one, you know, crucial guide or, or one, you know, an important guide for people to walk away with if they’re going into a meeting and thinking, what should I do right now to improve this meeting? We talk to people about lift, which is before you go into a next meeting, just consider this, don’t be in your head, focus, outwards, focus towards the other people. It saves you from being self-conscious. And just think by the end of this meeting, how do I lift this person and lifting this person means how do I move them from a negative or a neutral state to a positive or more positive state?
How do I do that? And allow your body language, tone of voice and words to move in that direction. And we love it when somebody does this, you know, it might be, if you can think back, it might be like your favorite grandma did this when you were younger, that she, she was the person who lifted you. She spoke to you, and she saw your greatness. And whenever you were around her, you walked away going. I wanna live up to who this person thinks I am. And suddenly, you know, by doing that as a leader, you lift everybody around you. So I’d encourage people to think about lift in their next meeting.
How to Connect with Richard to Learn More
Jenn DeWall: I love that we rise by lifting others. Richard, how can our audience get in touch with you and the body talk team?
Richard Newman: So if people wanna find out more, you can go to UKBodyTalk.com, and there are loads of resources on there. You can find me on LinkedIn. I’m Richard Newman, Body Talk on LinkedIn. And you can also if you want to find me on Instagram, I’m at RichardNewmanSpeaks.
Jenn DeWall: Oh my gosh, Richard. Thank you so much. I would love to have you back on the show. Thank you again for donating your time. Thank you for your vulnerability as well. And just sharing your story. I thank you. Thank you. You’ve inspired me today and I’m just grateful.
Richard Newman: Great. Thanks Jenn.
Jenn DeWall: Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit podcast. I loved my conversation with Richard Newman and I hope that you’re walking away, listening to this, thinking. Wow. Think about how I can change my communication to make a greater impact. Now, if you enjoyed the conversation and you want to link up and connect with Richard, you can find him on LinkedIn at Richard Newman speaks. You can head on over to UKBodyTalk.com and which is his official website. And you can also find him on Instagram at RichardNewmanSpeaks. Thank you again so much for listening today.
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