‘It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It.’ This Is Emotional Intelligence Technique Steve Jobs Used When No One Was Talking About It

  • Steve Jobs was both hated and revered for his unique approach to communicating ideas and motivating his teams.

  • The Apple co-founder naturally utilized verbal and non-verbal communication techniques that are now recognized as part of emotional intelligence.

Steve Jobs
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Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was a leader who was both loved and hated. However, even his toughest rivals, such as Microsoft's Bill Gates, couldn’t help but admire his talent for communication.

For better or worse, Jobs’ great strength was his mastery of a soft skill that is one of the most sought after by companies today: emotional intelligence. Specifically, using emotional intelligence in communication.

“It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” This is one of the most famous Jobs quotes, which captures his skill in using emotional intelligence to communicate effectively in product presentations and speeches.

Jobs perfectly understood that his attitude, tone, and even his posture during presentations were crucial in conveying his message.

By applying principles of emotional intelligence, Jobs was able to connect with his audience and maintain its attention during his presentations. This made his speeches, like the famous one at Stanford University in 2005, not only impactful, but it also helped him convey confidence and credibility.

A natural talent explained by science. The impact of nonverbal language has been studied for decades. In their study in the 1960s titled "Decoding Inconsistent Communications", psychology professors Albert Mehrabian and Morton Wiener investigated how nonverbal language significantly influences the perception and understanding of a message.

In it, they compared how the same message communicated with different attitudes and tones of voice was perceived differently by its recipients. As such, controlling this technique would be an important part of the “persuasive talent” that characterized Jobs.

The importance of non-verbal communication. According to a study by a team of researchers at the University of Oxford, 80% of the information we transmit when communicating with other people is non-verbal. Jobs understood and mastered this aspect of emotional intelligence and used it in his body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions to complement and reinforce the message he conveyed with his words.

Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 rule is used to improve communication efficiency. From a theoretical standpoint, it defines the weights (in percent) that verbal, nonverbal, and paraverbal (that is, the tone of voice) communication have in transmitting messages. One could question the percentage Mehrabian gives to each one of these aspects. However, the importance of the way in which a message is shared is undeniable. Communicating while looking at a screen and turning your back to the audience is not the same as approaching and interacting with them, which makes them part of the presentation.

Storytelling. When presenting at Apple events, Jobs didn’t just showcase products, he crafted compelling stories that held his audience’s attention. For instance, when he unveiled the first iPhone in 2007, his approach didn’t just revolutionize the mobile phone industry. His storytelling went beyond showing the new device; it also effectively sparked a desire among the audience to own the product.

The ability to engage an audience by weaving a narrative around the intended message forms the foundation of storytelling theory that scholars from universities in New York, San Francisco, and Princeton have studied in recent years. Their findings concluded that Jobs’ narrative technique facilitated a stronger connection between the brains of his listeners and the ideas he conveyed.

Image | Joi via Flickr

Related | Bill Gates Takes Notes by Hand in All His Meetings and in the Margins of the Books He Reads. The Reason Is Backed by Science

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