I was lenient on many things as my three sons were growing up, but grades weren’t one of them. A’s were expected, B’s were average, and C’s were failing. I taught them this rule at a very early age.
So when my son, Corey, was in seventh grade and came home with a C on his report card, he knew he was in big trouble. That night I told him to come downstairs, sit at the kitchen table and wait for me to come in. I let him sit there for about 30 minutes before I came in and sat down with him.
Before saying anything, I took a long pause so he could see the disappointed look on my face. Then, with a very stern and serious tone, I reminded him about the academic rule we established in our household. To increase the dramatic effect of what I was saying, I said it very slowly and with a soft voice, almost whispering.
To further reinforce the importance of what I was saying, I repeated the rule a second time. Then I grounded him for two weeks and told him it had better never happen again.
This story is a perfect example of what I call “point magnifiers.” Point magnifiers are everything I do and say leading up to the point I want to make.
In other words, the point I made with Corey was to remind him that C’s we’re failing in our household and it had better never happen again. The point magnifiers I used were making him sit at the table for 30 minutes before I came in, taking a long pause before saying anything so he could see the disappointed look on my face, using a serious tone but saying it slowly and with low volume, and repeating myself a second time.
I used all of these point magnifiers to augment the impact of what I said. Did it work? Well, Corey never got another C on his report card again.
But point magnifiers aren’t just a great tool for parenting. They can be used in a wide array of circumstances when you want to strengthen the importance of what you are about to say next. I’ve used point magnifiers countless times with clients to emphasize the significance of my statement. Point magnifiers can also be used after you make an important statement to convey the gravity of what you just communicated.
In essence, a point magnifier is not the actual point you make, but rather, what you say (and how you say it) to dramatize the importance of the point you are about to make or just made.
The next time you want to emphasize the gravity of something, here are a few point magnifying tips:
Before you make your most important points, take a brief pause. I have found that 2 to 3 seconds is ideal. It’s about the time you need to take a deep breath, which further “dramatizes” what you are about to say. This short delay builds a bit of intensity and augments the impact of what you say next. This is how you get listeners “on the edge of their seats.”
We all know how to vary the tone of our voice to sound more or less serious. We do it with children and pets all the time. When using a point magnifier, it’s often quite effective to go to that more serious tone.
Are you sitting or standing? Do you have your arms by your side, folded in your lap, or folded across your chest? What is your facial expression? Are you maintaining constant eye contact? Body language can make your point magnifier more effective.
Most people believe that if they raise the volume of their voice they will be heard more effectively. Actually, the opposite is true. When a speaker shouts, it often comes off as annoying or even belligerent and people tune it out. Instead, consider speaking in a softer tone when you are using a point magnifier.
When you use a point magnifier at your normal speaking cadence, it sounds like everything else you normally say. When you slow your speaking pace, you can enunciate and articulate what you are saying more clearly, and make it appear as being more important. This is why parents often instinctively slow their pace when they want to make an important point, “You will do your chores right now or you will…not…get…any…dessert…
Repeating a point magnifier should be used sparingly and thoughtfully, but can emphasize the importance of the point you are about to make. You can even emphasize it more by saying “Now I am going to say that again…”. Repetition can be effective in getting a memorable statement to “stick,” but use it judiciously.
So the next time you want to draw attention to an important point, magnify its impact by using a point magnifier.