Communicating is Harder that Rocket Science Ita Olsen

Being a Great Communicator can be Rocket Science and It’s Okay

It’s crazy how many people think they’re unique. Granted, each individual is unique in millions of ways. But not when it comes to communicating with others. We all suffer from the same speech & communication problems, the vast majority of us share the same emotions. But each client describes their speech issues as if they’re the only ones who have them.

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Speech-Language Pathology School, It’s a Thing

After I finished grad school for Speech-Language Pathology, my friends were getting jobs in their chosen careers. Many of them would come to me privately, individually, and complain that their message wasn’t getting across. So many times I heard, “I have something to say in the morning meeting, but when I open my mouth, it doesn’t come out right.” The other one that crushed me was when my friends said, “I have good ideas, but I just keep my mouth shut. Nothing comes out.”

At first, I thought, why are all of these people coming to me? I can’t help them speak their minds! But I drew upon my training in school. I realized that the principles we use in speech pathology to help someone who is a below-normal communicator become normal can be used to help average communicators become incredible. Thus, speech improvement is available to you!

So I set up shop at Barnes & Noble. It was the 90s don’t judge! And I read book after book, bought the ones chock-full-of-info, and took notes from the ones where I gleaned only a bit. (Sorry!)

Then I hung out my shingle. I loved working with kids, but there were tons of Speech-Language Pathologists helping the folks who need to reach normal limits. There was relatively NO ONE providing speech improvement to the regular people dealing with the challenging communicative situations that we face in our daily lives.

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eliminate filler words

Why Can’t I Speak Well?

For the past 23 years, I’ve been hearing versions of my friends’ confessions all that time ago. The crazy part that I can’t understand is, why is this all under wraps? Why is it still a secret that people aren’t supposed to be incredible communicators without some training?

Let me tell you a real secret. The way your brain processes information is significantly different from the way you convey information. There are different processes involved. Your brain provides you with brilliant passageways for you to understand challenging concepts. But the system for delivering that information to others is quite different.

Once you learn the steps to becoming an incredible communicator you become the rocket scientist and everything becomes easy for you. For example, Camilla came to me reporting that she wasn’t as engaging as she’d like to be in meetings. That her voice seemed “small” and people didn’t respond well to her ideas.

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The first step was to evaluate her speech & voice. She had a tight throat with a thin resonance that wasn’t making an impact. She wasn’t chunking her concepts into small groups of meaning and that was making it hard for people to process her ideas. Then we were able to apply the skills she needed (open throat, lots of air, chunking her concepts, etc.) hierarchically throughout her life. It took about 5 weeks and now this crystal clear, highly engaging speech is her new normal.

So stop beating yourselves up and start talking about it with your friends and colleagues. Share your stories. You can begin with, “Gosh, I don’t know why I can explain myself to you so well, but when I’m in front of the board of directors, I get a bit tongue-tied.” (Not a mystery.) Or even, “I have no idea why I forgot what I wanted to say when I was delivering my speech.” (Also, not a mystery.) How about, “I heard myself on the recorder and couldn’t believe how many filler words I use!” (Again, not a mystery.)

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Speech Improvement. Incredible Communicators Have Worked on It.

Embarrassment about not being an incredible speaker is stupid and a waste of time. And it prevents you from getting better. Nobody is a perfect communicator. No one. I’ve been working on my speech/communication skills since I was 14, and I’m not perfect. The other day, someone called me out online for using the word “just.” (The word “just” is undermining)

Perfect speech isn’t the goal. The goal is to create and maintain incredible strong relationships with others. It’s to get people to find you credible, trustworthy, authoritative, and warm. And if you’re not getting your message across those goals are hard to attain.

The most challenging thing humans do is communicate. You might think it’s rocket science or brain surgery. It’s not. It’s the ability to communicate with other people. Your brain must complete so many processes to get your message out (and to perceive information simultaneously.) Consider that there’s stress and emotions and desires involved. Your brain is BUSY.

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Speech Improvement Training is a Systematic Process

Now compare that with rocket science, brain surgery, or whatever field in which you find yourself. Did someone throw you out to the wolves? Did they say, “Build a rocket, get yourself to space, you have ten days?” No, you started learning math when you were two years old. You studied physics in high school. You went to school for years to study; when you came out, it was as if you had to learn it all over again.

Right? Seriously, when you finished your marketing degree, you were like wow! I’m so educated! Then you got your first job, and you felt as if you knew nothing! Then you climbed the ladder and became quite proficient, learning as you go—continuous learning throughout our lives. So speech improvement is necessary for our lives.

You’re Not Alone When You Want to Improve Your Speech

The steps involved in conveying your message to a fare-thee-well are many. The process that makes you come across as highly competent and authoritative, and so you persuade people to see your point of view and do what you tell them, is intricate.

But I assure you, it’s easily doable. You need to learn the steps and apply them systematically. Then it’s ridiculously easy. And crazy fun. So why do we beat ourselves up? We just need to take it upon ourselves to become better communicators.

Please don’t feel alone when you feel frustrated about an inability to convey your message perfectly all the time! It happens to everyone!

Can you find the two places where I used the word “just” in this article? Let me know how you feel about your communication skills and speech improvement in the comments.


6 thoughts on “Being a Great Communicator can be Rocket Science and It’s Okay”

  1. That makes sense. I mean why do I think I should be a great communicator if I’ve never worked on it? Why do I get so mad at myself for not being perfect at communicating all the time?

    1. Yes! And we feel bad about ourselves when we make speech mistakes like using too many fillers or upspeak, but really it’s just something we have to work on–like anything else! Do tennis players have coaches until they get to the Open? Yes! They’re coached at the Open.

      Everything we’re great at, we have worked on a lot.

  2. Hello! I’m a fellow SLP who has recently made the transition from sub acute rehab/skilled nursing to teletherapy. My new case load is mainly adults who want to develop their professional speaking or decrease the impact of their accents. I love this post! You perfectly articulated what I try to convey to my clients weekly.

    1. Hi Rachel! Nice to meet a fellow SLP 🙂
      I wish you well in your new venture. Remember, people weren’t taught communication skills in school, so regular folks also need our help 🙂

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