Tsaheylu: How to take your audience for a ride:
Two communication lessons from "Avatar!"
By Darren LaCroix
"I see you. " ~Jake Sully (Character in Avatar)
Do you realize each time you communicate it is different? Even though you
are the same person saying the same thing? It is different each time. Do
you know why? Do you "see" the people you are communicating to? As it is
said in the movie Avatar, do you really "See them?"
The film is a story about the Na'vi people who live on Pandora. The part
that should grab the attention of anyone who communicates one-on-one, in
sales calls, or even speaks to groups is the Na'vi "queues." Queues come
out of the back base of their skull and hang down to their waist. They are
an external bundle of nerve endings that are braided into their hair for
protection. On the surface they appear to be ponytails. At the very tip
there is a cluster of nerve endings that allow a direct connection with
other organisms. It is an interpersonal and interspecies plug and socket.
The Banshee (flying reptile) and the Direhorse (similar to our horse) also
have queues. When queues are connected they can "see into" each other.
They know and experience each other at a much deeper level. This
incredible connection allows them to share memories and information. Because
of this, no verbal or physical directions are necessary. The rider and
animal move as "one" and in harmony. The Na'vi call it: Tsaheylu or "the
Especially unique, the Banshee - chooses their rider, not the other way
around. The rider needs to prove their worthiness before they will allow
them to "get on." Think about that.
This is exactly how the people receiving your communication think. They
choose whether or not to "allow" a connection with the person doing the
communicating. We must prove our worthiness before individuals will "allow"
a connection and be open our to message. Build trust first and create the
connection before taking the audience for a ride. No trust, no connection,
Audience members, like the Na'vi, need to share emotions in order to create
Tsaheylu. If someone is too "salesy" or "cocky" audience members may
listen, but they won't "choose" to connect with that person. As a result the
audience member will not "allow" you to take them for a ride. If they don't
allow you to connect, you will not be able to educate, inspire, sell or
entertain. Bottom line, even if they are looking you right in the eyes and
smiling, your message may fall on deaf ears.
The main difference is that the Na'vi can only connect with one at a time.
As a communicator you have the opportunity to connect with multiple people
are once, yet each connection with each individual will be unique. Why?
Because you are actually tapping into the emotions and past experience of
that person. That is why every communication is different, though you may be
using the same words. There are different individuals you may be trying to
reach. Ever notice there are some "types" of people you like better than
others? Why? Because the individuals that make up the audience make it is
easier to connect with them.
Because of shared experience and emotions, people with similar backgrounds
are more likely to share "Tsaheylu." Trust translates into more acceptance
of what you have to inform, educate, or sell. That means you are also more
likely to get better results.
What can you do to create: "Tsaheylu?"
Questions to ask yourself before you communicate:
1) What is my intention? (Will this help or hinder?)
2) How can I connect first?
3) Am I "present?" (It is not about you, put your audience first)
4) What common ground do we have?
5) What emotions do they have about this subject?
6) How can we get on the same emotional page first?
7) If this were my last communication to this person, how would I deliver
A great example of a great communicator is keynote speaker, Patricia Fripp.
Before she gives her program she walks into the audience and talks to people
one-on-one and in small groups. Her intention is to help individuals with
their challenges before she even begins. She will then go to the front of
the room and with the microphone on, will take questions from the audience,
again before she is introduced.
If you were in her audience and she spoke to you directly while being
helpful, do you think you would feel a greater connection? Would you be more
open to her message? Would you feel a bond? More eager to listen?
In the Avatar, not long after when the two main characters meet, Neytiri
says to Jake Sully, "I see you." He doesn't get what she really means. At
the end of the movie he understands "I see you" doesn't just mean, I
visually see you. It means I see your actions, your fears, your hopes, I
see who you are. When you are in front of your next audience, whether a
one-on-one with one of your children, or a formal presentation at work,
don't just see the outside. If you want to create a deep "Tsaheylu," see
People are often more concerned with "looking good" to their audience, than
helping them with their current challenges. Not if they feel that "I see
you." Don't speak at the people with whom you are communicating. See them
and create the bond first.
There is not one way for you to connect. There is, however, the best way for
you to create the bond depending on your audience. Be willing to experiment.
Does your audience feel that you see them? Will you see them? What new
strategy will you try to create: Tsaheylu?