We’ve all stumbled on instances where we didn’t seem to be getting through to someone.
Maybe they were a potential client who misunderstood what products or services you provide. Maybe they were an existing client and, somewhere in your work together, their expectations were misaligned.
In any case, the best business owners are always on the lookout for ways to better communicate, and here to help all of us hit that mark is Jason Raitz.
The Founder and President of Speak with People, Jason’s spoken on more than 500 stages throughout the United States and is passionate about coaching leaders to “Speak with people, not at them.”
With that in mind, this episode’s all about how to better “speak with” the people around you from clients to sales leads to family and friends.
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✅ Learn more about Speak With People: https://www.speakwithpeople.com/
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Intro: You know those moments when you’re doing what you love in your business, maybe it’s standing onstage or creating content, whatever it is, you’re totally immersed, and time just seems to slip-by. This is called The Flow State. At Speaker Flow, we’re obsessed with how to get you there more often. Each week we’re joined by a new expert where we share stories, strategies, and systems to help craft a business you love. Welcome to, technically Speaking.
Taylorr: We did it. Look at us. Go. We are live. Jason, a glutton for punishment, I see. Joining us on Technically Speaking. Welcome.
Jason: Hey, I love it. Thank you so much for having me.
Taylorr: For sure, man. I was just on your show, was that last week? Or was it this week?
Jason: It was last week. It feels like yesterday.
Taylorr: It does feel like yesterday. Yeah. We had a fun conversation.
Jason: Wonderful moment. It was great.
Taylorr: Yeah, definitely. Well, really excited to unpack more of what you do here on the show. I think it’s a phrase and a take that I haven’t heard before in the context of communication and we love perspective. And so, unpacking everything you do and why and why that matters to our listeners is going to be a fun journey today. So, thank you for being here and sharing your brain with us.
Jason: I love it.
Taylorr: Yeah. So, I’m curious, so the background in communication, that’s kind of what your expertise is, right? Speak with people, not at them. We’re going to talk more about that here in a moment. But communication doesn’t seem like something as a kid, you were like, ah, when I grow up that is the thing to be doing. I would imagine there was some evolution of stumbling upon things to get to the conclusions of where you are today. So, give us a little bit of your backstory. Why speak with people and how did you end up as an expert in communication?
Austin: Why are you the way you are, Jason?
Taylorr: Yeah. Why are you the way that you are? Thank you, Michael Scott.
Jason: Yeah, right. Oh, we could just probably do a whole episode on office quotes.
Taylorr: Oh, we’re there for it.
Jason: The power of those. I actually want to do a whole series on the Speak with People podcast, communicating from an office standpoint, and just kind of break down each one. I want to do one on the office, then I want to do one on Ted Lasso. And so, I have to figure out, yeah, I have to figure out.
Austin: You and Jeff Harry. Jeff Harry has a podcast called Ted Lasso Leadership. Man, it’s awesome. So good.
Jason: Yeah, I have to check it out. I grew up in the city of Detroit and wanted to be a baseball player, wanted to be a Detroit Tiger my entire life. And when I was 11 years old, my parents took me to some type of event where there were multiple speakers on the stage and a comedian, and then this person was talking about this. And I was just a kid, but really at 11 years old, I was like, oh my goodness, this is what I want to do. So, the very next week I went home and I built a stage in my basement.
Taylorr: No way.
Jason: And so.
Taylorr: This literally was, when I grow up, this is what I want to do. This is what I wanted to do.
Austin: The first time ever on this show, people.
Taylorr: I was wrong.
Austin: Groundbreaking right here.
Taylorr: Holy crap. Okay, tell me more.
Jason: Yes. So, I built a stage. My mom made the world’s, she still does, the world’s best chocolate chip cookies. So, I went to all of my friends, bribed them like crazy to come listen to me in hopes that they would get the cookies afterward. But I was okay with it. So, I then welcomed everybody. I got onstage at 11 years old in my basement, did my little spiel, it was part comedy part whatever. And then they got their cookies. And so, I started to do that. My mom still has some cassette tapes because I know I’m looking like a spring chicken, probably across the screens. But I’m coming up to the big five-o, so she has cassette tapes of me doing these little messages, talks, keynotes, comedian things to my neighborhood friends.
So, I’ve always loved speaking. I’ve always loved the speaking process. I’ve loved getting in front of people. And so, I always say that I’m part entertainer, part education, motivator, so I’m not going to wow you with deep stats and all of that kind of stuff. But, man, I’m going to tell you a story that’s going to make you laugh at one end, hold your side and then pull your heartstrings and just kind of get all of the emotions going. So, that’s kind of my thing. Believe it or not, for many years I actually worked for a church, and so I worked in the church world, and because of that I was in front of people all of the time and I loved it. The part I didn’t really like about it is my brain, we were just talking about always thinks in Michael Scott, and that’s what she said comments, and all of that kind of sarcasm.
And so, I had to get a really quick filter or I’d get some church people upset at me pretty quick. So, about a year ago I left that world. In the midst of that I traveled and spoke for years at conferences and camps and lots of student events and tours. And then, years ago, I started teaching people how to communicate. I went from being super Jason consumed, Jason is the greatest thing in history of the world to, I just want to help other people connect with their audience.
And so, that’s where Speak with People came from. About 15 years ago, I was at an event and I was like, I think there’s a giant difference between communicators who are just onstage to promote their agenda, to remind us how great they are, to be the hero of the story, to dispense lots of great and helpful information, but stuff that’s not sticking, or the communicator who’s taking us on a journey, who’s putting the audience’s needs above their own, who’s presenting an opportunity for us to be able to change our lives because of what they’re presenting. So, anyway, the with an at kind of framework came to be.
So, I thought I came up with it. I was so proud of it. I’m like, finally, once in my life I came up with something cool, and I found out about six months ago that the great Vin Scully, LA Dodger baseball announcer said, speak with people, not at them about 30 years ago. So, that was it.
Taylorr: Hey, sometimes good messages don’t need new voices, but new amplifiers, you know what I mean?
Taylorr: So, that’s, yeah. Well, what’s interesting about that story to me is you mentioned this very briefly. It seems like there’s a meta-layer here. You kind of talked about how there’s somebody onstage that’s about them versus somebody onstage where it’s about the audience? But just a moment prior to that, you mentioned how in the early days it was me, me, me, Jason, Jason, Jason, and then some switch happened where it was more about them and less about you. Can you speak more about that transition? This happened around the same time you came up? Amplified the speak with people, not at them thing. Fill me in there.
Jason: Yeah. So, the long and the short of it is I went through a couple of massive failures in my life. So, my twenties were all about Jason, giant head, wanted to be the the best ever. One of my favorite baseball players is Ted Williams. There’s Ted Williams stuff all over the wall. Ted Williams, when he grew up, he wanted to be the greatest hitter that had ever lived. Actually, his goal was, I want to walk down the street and I want people to say, there goes Ted Williams, the best hitter ever. Now, Ted was pretty cocky and confident, and the media hated him. There are just all those kind of stories. But Ted practiced all of the time, last player to hit over 400, 406 in 1941.
So, anyway, as a kid, I fell in love with Ted Williams and I started thinking to myself, I want to be that kind of speaker. I want to be the kind of speaker who gets off the stage and people are like, oh my goodness, that guy just spoke right to me and there were hundreds of people in this room. That’s kind of what I wanted to be able to do. And so, I kind of had a big giant head. Anyway, fast-forward 2005, I hosted this giant event. It was four stages and 50 bands, and multiple speakers and comedians and inflatable, it was a giant festival for families. And I went for it took all of the big giant risks. I’m like; this is going to be it. And it just flopped. It flopped hard. I lost a lot. I lost so much of my pride. I can remember it was June 3rd, 2005, I’m standing in this field at 3:00 AM and I’m just I’m screaming at God, I’m screaming at myself, I’m screaming at anybody who will listen to me. Why did this thing have to fail?
And that night it was kind of like, I think I’ve been going about this the wrong way. I think I’ve been making it all about me. Maybe that’s what’s going the wrong way. So, just kind of diverted plans a little bit and said, you know what? I read Dale Carnegie stuff. It was the first book I ever read when I was 18, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Somehow I got through all of school without reading an entire book and someone handed me that book and I’m like, shoot, dang, I can do this. And so, I got back there and it was about 2005, and I went, I have to go about this a different way.
So, I’m still selfish, I’m still too cocky and confident and all of that stuff sometimes, but as much as I can, I’m trying to be as audience-focused, others-focused, and help them succeed. Because I’m finding the more I’m really helping others succeed, the more it really does come back. It’s just such a weird deal. So, that was it. It was a massive failure. I was embarrassed, back in 2005, I was on the radio, this is kind of before internet and all of that. So, I was on the radio and I was speaking at all of these places. And so, my failure was visible to everyone. Actually, I walked into a room once, a gathering of leaders, and they’re like, oh, hey, I just want you to know, I’m making sure I don’t rates my event, as in fail.
Austin: Oh. Yikes.
Jason: I was like, I grew up in the city of Detroit, I’m scrappy. I got beat up by, I tell people all of the time, I got beat up by all colors of people. I got beat up by black kids and Arab kids and white kids, and like, I’m a little scrappy, so I’m like, I’m about to throw down with you. But I was like, I’m not going to do that. I’ll just walk forward. So, that’s kind when my approach changed. And I still love to communicate. I still love to be on stages. There’s nothing better than captivating an audience or seeing the aha moment when you see it in their eyes. Wow, this just clicked and they’re leaning in with you. But I love to help other people experience that moment. It’s just so much fun to see other people win. So, that’s the meta version. I kind of gave you the little deeper, a little deeper version.
Taylorr: That’s exactly what I wanted. Thank you.
Austin: Yeah, I love it, dude. Well, there are so many people that talk about communication skills, and I think we all can inherently agree that it’s important to be a good communicator. The definition of which I want you to explain for me in just a second here, but you know what it’s like to have that shift from your own personally lived experience, and it’s backed by the craft that you’ve spent your entire life focused on developing. So, you have a really unique perspective coming to this conversation with, which I appreciate about you. And because of that, or segueing off of that, communication skills kind of feels like one of those things that we all talk about like we’re all talking about the same thing, when in reality, I don’t even know if we are a lot of the time. So, before we get into the specifics here, can you give us a shared definition of what you are talking about when you talk about improving communication skills?
Jason: Absolutely. So, many people talk about, I want to be an effective communicator. I want to be an effective communicator. And I think it’s fine to want to be effective. Here’s just what I’ve learned working for organizations for 25 plus years, being around tons of communicators, you could still be a major ass and be effective. You can still be a giant tool and hurt people with your communication and your leadership and be effective. So, the heart behind speak with people is we want to help leaders; we want to elevate the importance and practice of healthy communication in leaders’ lives. And so, we want you to be a well-rounded, a holistically healthy communicator.
And so, we say all of the time, at the end of the day, we help leaders improve their communication skills, whether it’s one-on-one, whether it’s to a team from a stage or from behind a screen. So, we to say healthy communication is oxygen for your relationships and your leadership. Not everyone considers themself to be a leader, but if you have influence, like John Maxwell says, you are a leader. So, how are you going to spend that currency? Because communication is currency. It’s how I influence people, it’s how I close a sale, it’s how I start a new relationship. It’s how I realistically breathe life into people just like oxygen coming into my lungs, I can do that with my communication.
So, we talk a lot about healthy communication and being someone who breathes life into people with their words, with their non-verbals, with their actions. So, that kind of just gives you a little bit more of when we’re talking about communication what we talk about.
Taylorr: Yeah. Well, I want you to build on this a little bit more, and I think this has to do with the whole idea of speaking with people and not at them. In my mind, that sounds really good, and I’m like, yeah, let’s do that. But then I get on the path of what does that actually mean? With versus at, truly. Where’s the line in the sand? And basically, my core question here is, what does healthy communication look like?
Jason: Absolutely. We say all of the time when I speak with people, I’m choosing to communicate in a healthy way. When I’m speaking at people, I’m choosing to communicate in an unhealthy way. At happens all of the time, right? My wife and I have five kids. So, until we adopted number five, so we adopted him from China. That’s a whole other crazy story. You want to talk about communication, spend three weeks in China and try to communicate, but he also has autism and just a slew of sensory disorders and difficulties. So, all of this buildup to when my older kids were younger, sometimes I spoke at them, I was loud, I yelled at them, I was too sarcastic, those kind of things.
Having a nine-year-old adopted son with autism and sensory stuff, anything loud is just. If I take him into a men’s bathroom and the blower goes on, you would think that somebody’s digging knives into his ear. So, we don’t yell anymore in our household. We don’t do those kinds of things. So, when we think of, with and at, especially from a upfront stage communication. When we speak with people, we’re bringing them on the journey, to borrow some of Donald Miller’s terminology. We’re making them the hero of that journey, and we’re just the guide.
So, we’re bringing them along and we’re helping them get to a place where they can make a healthy decision. The best example I have is, I just don’t know a politician, not to get political, not to get people riled up on either side. I just don’t know a politician who does not speak at people. I watch all of these politicians, they throw each other under the bus, everybody’s upset and angry, and then you go onto social media and it’s all of this just ugliness all of the time.
I’m like, okay, that is a pure definition of I’m speaking at someone. If I’m sitting in the seats and I’m listening to someone and I’m going, okay, are they taking me on a journey? Or are they just spending the entire time telling me how great they are and how I should jump on the bandwagon of being their greatest supporter? It gets down to pretty quick going, okay, this person is healthy, he’s taken me on a journey. This person is just speaking at me. They’re dispensing information and hoping that I catch along with it.
Austin: Yeah. So, I feel that speaks to the intentionality of the person that’s speaking, right? Making it more about the person that you’re speaking with, rather than about yourself. What does it look like practically? How does the conversation differ when you’re speaking with somebody versus at them?
Jason: Absolutely. If you go to speakwithpeople.com, we actually have a with or at quiz, so there’s a with or at quiz that kind of helps you break down. So, if I am someone who is speaking at people, so there’s some kind of toxic characteristics of this, or some negative characteristics. One, I haven’t prioritized my health. So, my internal health, my external health, typically if I’m not taking care of my health, eventually there’s a pretty great chance that what’s going to come out of my mouth is going to be unhealthy, right? I’m going to lash out on someone. I’m going to talk with too much confidence or pride or arrogance or those kinds of things.
So, if I’m continually speaking at people, I’m not taking care of my health. That means your emotional, mental, physical, relational; you’re just not investing it all on yourself. You’re consumed with yourself. I remember as a early speaker, I was so consumed with myself, will they like me? Will these stories make sense? Will they laugh? Will I get asked back? I just turned it all into myself. And all of those questions aren’t bad. Speakers should want to be the best they can and tell stories that connect and all of those things. But we get so wrapped up in ourself that definitely, it puts up this barrier between us and the audience.
A couple of more of the ats, I allow worry to win. I just start worrying about all those questions, instead of being so obsessed about helping my audience win. What if I took that energy from being obsessed with me winning? And, I’m like, okay, how can I help solve the very real problems my audience is going through? Things like other at things, my research and study are lacking. We pick up pretty quickly communicators who just kind of get up and wing it. I love improv comedians, but they can get away with it, right? But if you’re paid to speak somewhere, you have to know your stuff and you have to be ready. And that kind of leads into your prep time. Your prep time is weak and thrown together.
A couple of other ats, I don’t value clarity. I don’t value clarity. One of the biggest ats is when you’re listening to a speaker and you just know they may not even know what they’re talking about. They’ve just put a bunch of stuff together and they hope that it just fits. A couple of other ats. I starve my audience from creativity, but we have every opportunity to be creative. It doesn’t matter if you are a wildly creative artist or not, we can pull video clips and pictures and handout things. I’m doing a training in Nashville next month and I’m already thinking through, okay, what’s something that I can tangibly put in? It’s for bankers, you know?
So, I’m like, what can I tangibly put in their hands that will make them go, I never saw that coming, but will trigger it, you know? So, those are some ats. A couple of more ats. I drown people in information, unless it’s a data or research kind of study, I drown them. I tell stories that are clinical and not applicable. A lot of times we just tell stories because maybe they have a good hook, but they don’t match up with the material. I don’t see laughter as a partner, people who speak at people. What I found from experiences, they don’t really lean into laughter too much. I talk down to people, we all kind of have sat there and listened to that speaker who I’m like, wow, you really are talking down to me. And then I’m the hero of all my stories. When I tell stories, I have to tell you what I did right here. And so, I just went through them super quick. But those are some of the characteristics of, I call them being an at-hole of.
Austin: Yes. Oh, that’s funny.
Jason: I had never thought of that until our little business, we’re a year old. We launched our own conference back in March called The Speakers Conference, and we did it in Clearwater Beach, which is just, I’m about 20 miles from Clearwater Beach. You wake up, you’re right there on the Gulf. It’s the sun and the ocean and the pool. It’s a great location, but we’re going through this, and it just dawned me onstage. I’m like, stop being an at-hole when you speak.
Taylorr: Heck, yeah.
Austin: That’s so good.
Taylorr: Sounds like a book title. Yeah, for sure.
Jason: If I get brave enough, that might be, because right now we’re working on the book, speak with people, not at them, but I’m like, oh, that would be best. Stop being an at-hole.
Taylorr: Yeah. Like an add-on to the book, you know?
Taylorr: The uncensored version.
Jason: Yeah. Yeah.
Taylorr: Yeah. Okay. So, something that I’m thinking about here is, let’s say I take a quiz and it gives me shining colors, I’m speaking with people, I feel good about myself, great. How do I know I’ve gone off track without being aware to go take the quiz again? What are some indicators in my everyday conversations and relationships and communication that could help me raise a yellow flag to say, hey, you’re maybe speaking at them. I’d imagine there are elements of what you just said of all of the different examples, but in a real conversation sense, how can I be self-aware enough to say I’m being an at-hole right now.
Jason: Yeah. Well, that’s good. I think first and foremost, you have really have to have a close core group of people who, I call them, my home team. They’re those four or five leaders that I’m like, hey, you have to shoot super straight with me. Let me know, are my social media posts coming across like I’m the king of the world. These are the people that I’m sending my reels to. These are the people that they’re watching some of my stuff. Or I’ll share my docs and I’m just going, okay, is this happening? So, I think having those people that can really speak into you, because what I found is I love being onstage, and so there’s nothing better; getting onstage, hearing a room full of laughter, taking them on a journey. It’s just incredible.
So, if I’m not being at a place where I’m legitimately going, Hey, I’m giving you permission to speak into my life, I have to make sure that I’m doing that. I’m just making sure, hey, I got this group of people that can say, Hey, here’s where you’re at. And I think people who are in this place of speaking at people all of the time, whether it’s face-to-face, over a screen like we are right now, on a stage, or even if I lead a team of people and I’m speaking at them you’re going to find out after a while, you’re only going to go so far. The phone’s going to stop ringing. Your coworkers aren’t going to want to work near you. And so, having that core team who you can really ask them those questions, I think is huge.
And then two, as I talked about at the very beginning of the at stuff is, self-awareness doesn’t happen overnight, but if you invest in your health, we’ve written a thing at Speak with people called the Pathway. So, it’s a step-by-step guide to becoming a more confident, clear and captivating communicator. So, Speak with People doesn’t necessarily, I believe we can help the professional speaker who is doing all of this incredible stuff, spoken to thousands, but really, we started Speak with People. And I think about one of my best friends, Michael, he’s a chiropractor up in Michigan. He speaks every day to clients. He’s doing Zoom trainings with other doctors. He wants to start a YouTube channel, but he’s trying to figure out can he communicate on screen. We started to Speak with People to help those leaders because we believe every leader has an incredible message inside of them that has to be told.
So, we created this thing called The Pathway that kind of helps you walk through each step to becoming that healthy, confident, and clear communicator. So, step number one is to assess and prioritize your health. And so, if you’re regularly going, hey, my health is important, I have to take care of this. There are greater odds that you’re going to steer away from those negative things. Now, you all know, we get in the season of stress and all of this stuff that weighs us down and we lean away from that stuff. But if we’re making sure that’s an investment, we put it on our calendar, we’re taking care of it, it’s going to help greatly. And then I think, one of the things that we talk about a lot at Speak with People is we’ve been given two ears. I didn’t say this, I don’t know who did. Two ears, one mouth. So, why do we talk so much? I think it’s an 80/20 principle. We do a healthy communication employee training for companies.
So, I’m doing a lot of this communication skills training with bank managers right now, and financial advisors and especially people in the sales world, right? We want to jump in and we want to start talking and this is what we can do. And instead of, let’s ask some really valuable questions, 20% of our time, and then 80% just listen. So, we can pick out what are they dreaming about, what do they really need, what’s going on, what’s their story? So, I can be the guide, come along with them and help them get to those places. So, I think that’s a couple of 1, 2, 3 kind of ways that we can make sure we’re steering away from some of that unhealthy at stuff with our communication.
Austin: Yeah, really good. A couple of phrases come to mind that Taylorr and I toss around pretty regularly. One is you can’t read the label while you’re in the bottle. And so, looking for an outside perspective can help you spot things that probably you would look past on your own, because you just can’t always see. So, that’s valuable for any area of life. And other phrase, you can’t pour from an empty cup. You have to be the person that’s positioned to be a good communicator before you can even worry about the tactics, you can’t improve something if the foundation is already crap underneath it.
So, I think both of those are huge. And I’m curious, I’m sure there are a lot of people listening to this. I’ll just speak for myself here, right? I spend 40 plus hours a week every single week in Zoom meetings with people. I talk all of the time, too much some days, it feels like. So, I can think of myself as a pretty good communicator. I think probably most of the people who listen to the show, feel like they’re pretty good communicators. And also I’m sitting here going, gosh dang, I can get so much better at this. And so, going to your website, checking out your resources and things, finding some small, simple actions to improve. I think we’re all in that court. You’ve watched people go through this process a bunch. What do you think are some of the biggest challenges that people run into as they’re working on improving their communication skills? And what would you recommend they do to solve the problem?
Jason: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think just to piggyback on what you’re saying, you’re so right. So many of us communicate all of the time, we just kind of take it for granted, like breathing. It’s just something that we do, but we take a punch to the chest or we get an infection, we realize really quickly, boy, we should have been taking a look at that. And the same thing with investing in communication skills. There are so many great studies that show that as leaders invest in their communication skills, they’re the first ones typically to be promoted, to receive honors, to make bigger sales, all of that kind of stuff.
So, taking those steps. The things that I find is, one, pride just gets in the way, right? Especially for type A leaders who are like, I’m killing it. I’m doing my thing. I’m going to do it the way I’ve always done it. That’s okay. That’s good, but you at least have to let your pride down a minute to go, there are things that I can still learn because things are changing. We’re in the biggest communication change that we’ve seen in hundreds of years. The first time we have boomers, gen Xers, millennials, genzers, all working together. The boomers are working later into life longer than ever before. And so, now we have people who are working, Walmart, you have a boomer working with a genzer and the Gen Zer, they’re used to every information that quick. They don’t wait, it’s a crazy crossroads. And so, we have to get over our pride to go, you know what?
A coach or some type of investment in my communication will help me in the long run. It could help you as a dad, it could help you as a spouse, it could help you as a teammate. It could help you as a salesperson; whatever role you’re doing that pride will be able to get through. And then the thick skin thing, speakers, we say all of the time, hey, give me some feedback on my talk. You know? And internally we’re like, oh, I hope they don’t hit me too hard. You have to get over that. You have to welcome. That’s, for me, been the toughest challenge of starting my own, because Speak With People; I do speaking, we offer training for companies and then coaching. So, I do private coaching, we launched a course to help communicators. And then we have a podcast and a weekly blog.
So, I broke some of the rules, the rules are focus on one thing. And instead I’m like, well, we’re going to focus on starting a company this way. Find whatever tool and resource you can and just invest in it a little bit each week so your thing can get thinner and thinner and you can do that. So, I ask people all of the time, what do you think Speak with People’s about? What can we improve in our brand? What can we improve? And it’s hard to receive that feedback, but you have to be able to go, Hey, I’m going to grow through this. Evaluated experience is the best way to grow. And so, I think those are a couple of ways that we can kind of continue pushing through and growing.