Communication skills: they are the number one requirement on nearly every job description. They become more and more critical as we climb the ladder within our firms.
How are you at communicating?
Be honest with yourself. Are you concise and convincing or do you ramble on? Do people love your ideas and act on them immediately or are you misunderstood or (God-forbid!) interrupted?
1. Speaking Well is Easy
I can’t emphasis enough just how relaxed you need to be before and during every communicative situation. Not just giving presentations but communicating with colleagues and clients, when dating, making small talk, etc. Feel all of your muscles from the inside & make sure they’re just hanging down. No joke, kids. You’ll find that the more relaxed you are the better your communication skills. It comes as no surprise that when you’re sitting with friends you can describe your project so beautifully your friends think you’re the smartest person they know. Then your boss pokes his/her head in and asks how the project’s going & you might just be described as a stutterer. Who’s nervous. Not confident.
2. Articulation is Not the Answer
My clients are mostly C-level folks who put themselves into more and more challenging speaking situations as they continue to succeed in their lives. I’m fortunate enough to have the pleasure of working with really smart people who know that self-improvement is necessary to achieving great success.
I hear many people say, “I’d like to improve my articulation.” Being articulate means speaking fluently and coherently. Articulating each letter doesn’t make you articulate. It doesn’t work because in Standard American English 1 letter does not represent only 1 sound (among other reasons). We have 5 vowel letters but those 5 letters represent 16 sounds. Instead of over-articulating your sounds link them together. Don’t work on popping the final sound of each word. Allow the sound to blend in with the first sound of the next word. It’s called co-articulation. That’s what make your speech fluent and fluid. Resulting in credible, authoritative and persuasive speech.
Record your side of a conversation and listen for over-articulation. (I challenge you!) Then work to make sure you’re not stopping between words and that you’re linking the words together within phrases & clauses. Let me know how you do!
3. Speak with Pauses
There’s a lot of advice out there that in order to speak better you need to slow down. I don’t want you to speak in slow motion. I want you to use pauses. Practice by making them uncomfortably long. You may think that people are impatiently waiting for what’s next but in reality they’re merely processing the information that came prior. You’re in the future thinking about what you’re going to say next, your listeners are in the past processing what you’ve already put out there. With pauses, you’re all in the present!
How many times have you been intently attempting to listen to someone and your mind wanders? Like, a lot, right? It’s the speaker’s fault! They are probably over-articulating–making them sound staccato; they’re not using pauses–It’s all bad. Processing speech is a very big part of communicating. It’s our responsibility to make it easier for our listeners to process our message. That is if we want them to follow our important call-to-action.