Communicate Without Saying A Word

Communicate without saying a word. NEEDS EDITING

Consider the non-verbal gestures you extend to those around you. Does your manner, demeanor, and body language inspire a sense of confidence and purpose in your friends and colleagues? The way you carry yourself is important, right down to the way you dress. Consider the following two examples.

Reagan always wore a sportcoat when working in the Oval Office. This was another non-verbal gesture that clearly communicated to others, loud and clear, the great respect he had for the activities performed there. He did not take a casual approach to the great responsibilities of his office.

Another example of the importance of dress involves the first summit between Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at Villa Fleur d’Eau in Geneva. American and Soviet representatives alike, vividly recall that bitterly cold day, when Ronald Reagan walked off the porch of the chateau and down several steps to greet Gorbachev.

Before these two men had met for the first time, some critics had doubted that the elder Reagan was physically and mentally equipped to negotiate with the young and talented Soviet leader. Dressed in a tailored blue suit and tie, Reagan walked down the steps to shake hands with Gorbachev, who emerged from his limousine wearing a heavy coat, thick scarf, and a hat. It is interesting to listen to those who were present that day describe the image that was shown to millions of television viewers throughout the world. They describe a strong, robust American leader shaking hands with a man who was heavily dressed, bundled up for the cold.

Non-verbal actions, images, and symbols speak volumes. How you dress, act and move projects an attitude that is picked up by those around you. The way you walk, shake hands, and share eye contact has an influence on the attitude and feelings of those at your family reunion, your golf outing, and your company picnic.

Other examples of non-verbal actions that spoke volumes include when Reagan laid a wreath at the grave of a fallen soldier and when he attended funeral services along with the families of those brave astronauts who lost their lives aboard the Challenger. He conveyed true compassion, genuine affection, and moral understanding without uttering a single sentence.

Be intentional; and before each event you attend, consider the attitude and manner you wish to project. Are you meeting with members of your sales staff who could use some encouragement? Are you walking into a meeting where critical negotiations are about to take place? Are you motivating a group of kids who are about to play their first lacrosse game of the season? Be deliberate on how you can best carry yourself to positively influence those meetings.

Reagan also communicated non-verbally through symbols. For instance, Reagan understood the importance of the restoration of the Statue of Liberty. It was more than a paint-and-repair job. It served as a non-verbal reminder to Americans and to the rest of the world that America was the home of freedom and liberty. It symbolized a restoration, not only of the statue, but of America to its rightful place as the Free World’s foremost defender of democracy.

Maybe it is time to put up your own non-verbal symbol of excellence. Can you add something to your home or office that will rally the troops? A great example of such a thing is located at the University of Notre Dame. Just above the doorway that leads to the football field is a sign that reads: Play Like a Champion Today. The sign was placed there by the legendary football coach, Lou Holtz. As each player walks beneath the sign, they reach up and touch it. What a simple, yet powerful, non-verbal affirmation of their goal. It speaks directly to the core values they share.

Another example would be the climbing wall you might see in the lobby of a headquarters-building occupied by a company that manufactures outdoor climbing and camping equipment. It makes a strong statement about the company and the perspectives that are shared by all of the employees.

A friend of mine who is a police officer once told me that if you want to know what your kids hold in highest esteem, just look at the things hanging on their bedroom wall. They might be posters of athletes, heavy-metal rockers, rebellious statements, scripture quotes, motivational photos, pictures of supermodels, maps of bike trails, fishing poles, or NASCAR race schedules. Whatever hangs on that wall represents the things that are most important to your child.

Similarly, how you decorate your house sends cues to your family and friends about what you most value.

Reagan believed that the White House belonged to the people. Therefore, the maintenance of that house reflected on the American people. In turn, when he and Nancy Reagan arrived at the White House and saw drab walls needing paint and worn-out carpeting needing replacement, Mrs. Reagan took on the project of renovating floors and mahogany doors that had not been sanded or refinished in decades. The Reagan’s also retrieved a treasure trove of fine furniture that was gathering dust in storage areas throughout Washington. Improvements to the White House were funded by private donations instead of taxpayer expense. In addition, when the Oval Office received a fresh coat of paint and new carpeting, Ronald Reagan added a picture of former President Calvin Coolidge, whose leadership qualities Reagan admired so much.

Is your office welcoming?

Have you created a welcoming presence at your office? Do you have flowers or candy at the front desk and an attendant with a smile? Do the magazines in the lobby reflect the core values of your company?

Setting the stage at home

How do you decorate and maintain your living space at home? Does your family see the Bible or the Torah in a prominent part of your house, or do they see golf clubs and wine bottles? Do they see wide screen televisions everywhere, or do they see books and musical instruments? Do they see poker tables and dart boards, or do they see flowers and family photos? The choices are yours, but be intentional when making those choices, room by room. It is up to you to set the stage for excellence!

Take an inventory of those ways in which you currently present yourself to others. Then, list ways you can improve your non-verbal skills to motivate and inspire your troops. Remember, for Reagan, a simple salute did wonders!


Beware of the Experts

The Gipper, Ronald Reagan, an economics major at Eureka College, used to joke that you could take all of the economic experts in the world and lay them end to end, and they still wouldn’t reach a conclusion.

Beware of the Experts - Photo of a media panel of experts at television studio

Photo courtesy of

As governor and president, he liked to surround himself with good thinkers and then open up the discussion of problems and policy to everyone in the room, not only those who were specialists on the topic being discussed. Some of the most fruitful results came from this approach.

Are our opinions really based on empirical facts?

All of us would say that the opinions and ideas we hold are based upon empirical facts. We often list a handful of facts to convince ourselves and others that we are correct in our convictions. But, in reality, our most deeply held beliefs cannot be reduced to a list of facts on a page.

Instead, they come from thousands of life experiences from the time we are born. We form them from our conversations with hundreds of people and from books we’ve read, shows we’ve watched, and classes we’ve attended. We form them from our successes and failures, our personal strengths and weaknesses. We form them from our fears and anxieties, and from our hopes and dreams. We arrive at our convictions via these “thousands of bits of information.”

Are the self-proclaimed experts really any different?

The self-proclaimed experts among us, however, expect us to believe that they use a different method to arrive at their conclusions. But do they really?

Where is Your Rancho del Cielo?

Rawhide! President Ronald Reagan loved working with his hands, and being outdoors. And, you can see from this photo, taken at Camp David in November of 1981, that he loved to ride horses.

Photo Courtesy of Ronald Reagan Library

“I’ve often said, there’s nothing better for the inside of a man, than the outside of a horse.”

 – Ronald Reagan on many occasions.

Excerpt from Lead Like Reagan – Principles of Dynamic Leadership

Rancho del Cielo

This picture of Reagan was taken 7 months after the 70-year old entered George Washington University Hospital to have a would-be-assassin’s bullet removed from his chest. Horseback riding at Camp David was therapeutic for Ronald Reagan. But, Rancho del Cielo was his true sanctuary.

He called it his “Cathedral in the Sky” (Rancho del Cielo is Spanish for Sky’s Ranch, or Heaven’s Ranch).  It is where he could sort out problems while riding his favorite seventeen-hands-high

11 Speaking Techniques of the Great Communicator

President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev meet for the first time. Here, walking towards each other to shake hands. Reagan would later implore, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."
Photograph and Audio Clip Courtesy Ronald Reagan Library

As he approached the microphone at Brandenburg Gate, with a wall of bulletproof glass behind him, I wonder if Ronald Reagan knew that the words he would speak that day would be heard by billions of people spanning across multiple generations, into the future.


“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” These words might represent the pinnacle of the Great Communicator’s impact through words. Though his advisors continually tried to temper his words, President Reagan had a sense of history, public sentiment, and timing.

Here are 11 techniques Ronald Reagan used that can help you become a great communicator:

Be Described A Gentleman

Image of Ronald Reagan in a tan suit walking and waving to the crowd. The president would always be described as a gentleman.

Photo courtesy of Ronald Reagan Library

Be Described a Gentleman is an excerpt from Lead Like Reagan, Principles of Dynamic Leadership
In doing research for my book on the leadership style of Ronald Reagan, time and time again I recognized in Reagan some of the same strengths and attributes I saw in my father, James Scanlon. They were both gentlemen.

Those who were closest to Ronald Reagan are very consistent in the words they choose to describe the type of person he was, and the type of person he was not. There seems to be a wide consensus of what Ronald Reagan was not, by those who worked with him, wrote about him, protected him, fought for him, and lived with him. Ronald Reagan was:

You’re Never Too Old to Lead

Imagine that you are Ronald Reagan when he was 65 years old. You have just spent the last 20 years of your life dedicated to implementing a policy of political leadership that you believe will help your country and the world. All of your efforts to touch hearts and garner support for your vision comes down to a single vote at the national convention in 1976. The vote is 1,187 to 1,070 … and you lose.

Ronald and Nancy Reagan holding hands and smiling at Camp David
Ronald Reagan at Camp David with Nancy Reagan, Photo courtesy of Ronald Reagan Library

Smile When They Say You’re Too Old to Lead

Excerpt from Lead Like Reagan – Principles of Dynamic Leadership:
One of my favorite quotes from Thomas Jefferson is when he said, ‘We should never judge a president by his age, but by his acts.’ And ever since he told me that…

                           – Ronald Reagan, Annual Salute to Congress Dinner, February 1981.

Losing the Primary at Age 65

This is what happened to Ronald Reagan. He had just lost the convention vote to be the nominee for president of the United States to incumbent president Gerald Ford. He was 65 years old and had the financial security to retire in style. He had a large family, lots of friends, good health and many interests. He loved to spend time on his beautiful ranch in California, riding horses and working chores. I often wonder if Ronald Reagan was tempted to ride off into the sunset and spend the rest of his days in well-earned retirement.



As cabinet members and advisors debated various issues, there was a reason why Ronald Reagan reached for the jellybeans.

It was Reagan’s management style to listen to his advisors argue all sides of an issue. With no shortage of egos among these strong-willed and talented people, things could sometimes get heated during these discussions and debates. At these moments, Reagan was likely to sift through the assorted jellybeans searching for his favorite flavor, licorice.