Do people hang on to your every word? Are they sitting at the edge of their seats when you speak? Do you know people who can mesmerize their audience when they tell a story? They are out there and they’ve trained for it. It’s not magic and they weren’t born with it as they’d like you to believe.
Communication skills are the number 1 requirement in nearly every job description. Your communication skills become more & more critical as you climb the ladder of your career. You need them to network, ask for a raise, deal with negative feedback, the list goes on.
Most people aren’t superstars at communicating. Especially those who haven’t put much effort into learning how.
How are your communication skills? Be honest with yourself. Are you concise & convincing, or do you ramble on? Do people love your ideas & act on them immediately, or are you misunderstood or (God-forbid!) interrupted? If you want to learn how to communicate better, read on!
How Do Those Magnificent Communicators Do It?
Oh, they’ve got it down pat alright. They can magnetically communicate to their boss, in front of an audience, in any stressful situation without even much preparation. That’s because of all the practice they put in for a few short weeks or months of their lives.
Let me share with you what you need to do to become an incredible communicator.
- Relax. I can’t emphasize enough just how relaxed you need to be before & during every communicative situation. Not just giving presentations but communicating with colleagues & 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 most intelligent person they know. Then your boss pokes his/her head in and asks how the project’s going & someone might describe you as a stutterer. Who’s nervous. Not confident. When you come across that way, your chances of getting ahead slow down a bit.
- Articulation is Not the Answer. My clients are primarily C-level folks who put themselves into more & 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 achieve great success.
I hear many people say, “I’d like to improve my articulation.” Being articulate means speaking fluently & coherently. It doesn’t mean that you pop each letter very distinctly. In other words, articulating each letter doesn’t make you articulate. Here’s one reason why it doesn’t work: Because in Standard American English, 1 letter does not represent only 1 sound (among other reasons). For example, 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 each word’s final sound. Allow the sound to blend in with the first sound of the next word. It’s called co-articulation. That’s what makes your speech fluent & fluid—resulting in incredible, authoritative & persuasive speech.
Record your side of a conversation and listen for over-articulation. (I challenge you! Don’t be afraid!) Then work to make sure you’re not stopping between words & that you’re linking the words together within phrases & clauses. Let me know how you do!
- Don’t Slow Down — Speak with Pauses. There’s a lot of advice out there that you need to slow down to speak better. Slowing down is incorrect advice. Don’t speak in slow motion.
Instead, 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! That’s how to speak better!
How many times have you been intently attempting to listen to someone & 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.
How do I make these skills a habit in my life?
I’m so glad you asked. The easiest way is to hire me and I will guide you. Or you can take The Voice Spa online course. Or a hybrid of the two. What you’ll need to do is apply each skill hierarchically throughout your life. So start with the easy speaking situations you find yourself in. Like ordering food or chatting with your cat/kids/dog/randomstranger. Or reading to your kids. Don’t be dissuaded when your child asks you why you’re speaking differently. That’s a good sign! It means you’re making changes.
Then build your hierarchy. Determine which communicative situations are hardest for you and which are easiest and stack them from easiest to hardest. And work in that direction. Do only 1 level at a time. Don’t just try to apply these skills to your off-the-cuff speaking situations and think it’s going to work. You may see diffuse improvement but we need it to be specific.
And just practice for 15 minutes twice a day. Soon you’ll be charming the pants off everyone you meet. (Metaphorically speaking, of course.)