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When You Can't Wait to Say It, They Can't Wait to Hear It


“Anticipation is the secret sauce of communication."

-- John C. Maxwell

As I write this, we are exactly one week away from Christmas. I love this holiday, and every year, it's the same; I can't wait until Thanksgiving to break out the music and movies of this festive season! I want to sing about Christmas, talk about Christmas, dream about Christmas, and live Christmas every moment.

Maybe it's different for you, as I know it is for many; as adults, we get so busy with our schedules and overwhelmed by our responsibilities that it's sometimes hard to hang on to that anticipation.

Unfortunately, this challenge carries over into more than just our holiday spirit. This is why John Maxwell had to make it a communication law.

The Law of Anticipation says that when you can't wait to say it, they can't wait to hear it. If you don't have enthusiasm and anticipation for your message, how can you expect anyone else to be excited to receive it?

As communicators, it is our job "to do what we can to create a sense of anticipation and then to deliver the goods. If we succeed, and if we work to maintain that sense of anticipation, we can keep people sitting on the edge of their seats and take them with us on every step of the journey."

So, how do we create this anticipation for us and our audience?

Turn on Your Faucet

Louis L'Amour, an extraordinary Western novelist, once advised aspiring writers to just start writing because "water does not flow until the faucet is turned on." While simple in concept, this is incredibly true for all communication methods.

"If you can turn on your sense of anticipation, believing that you can do a good job and that you can help people, it will start you on a great track because anticipation is a key to self-discipline." And as your anticipation builds, so do your creativity and your ideas for your message. Which, in turn, gets you more excited about sharing your message with your audience.

If you want to be a good communicator, start communicating; "don't wait for the opportunity to start getting ready. Get ready and then find an opportunity."

Set the Table

John Maxwell compares good communication to a fine dining experience; the way the table is set, the ambiance, and the staff help to build anticipation for the food you are about to eat.

As a communicator, you have the same ability to create anticipation for your audience through your energy, posture, facial expressions, vocabulary, and phrasing!

To stick with the meal metaphor, let's consider a story the actress Helen Hayes once told about the first time she cooked a turkey. She told her family, "This is the first turkey I've ever cooked. If it isn't any good, I don't want anybody to say a word. We'll just get up from the table and go out to a restaurant to eat." When she went to place the turkey on the table, her family sat there with their coats and shoes on, ready to go.

"In relationships with others, most people are usually a fountain or a drain: They either refresh the life in others or they dry it up." -- Tim Elmore

Be a Plus, Not a Minus

As you prepare to communicate, be ready to give life, energy, and value to your audience. John loves to say that people are either a plus (+) or a minus (-) in how they relate to others. If you are a minus, most people will avoid you because you only take, but if you are a plus, people will be drawn to you with anticipation because you strive to add value to their lives.

Live on the Other Side of Yes

"Your expectations, more than anything else in life, determine your reality. If you expect every person, challenge, and opportunity in life to give you a 'no,' that's what you will get. If you always expect life's answers to be 'yes,' you will get them. And if you can live on the other side of 'yes,' you can experience a life that believes in nearly limitless possibilities."

This week, answer these questions:

  • What about your communication do you anticipate?

  • How can you build anticipation in others for what you have to communicate?

  • How do your perspective, attitude, and expectations contribute to both your anticipation and that of your audience?

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