I believe the heart of everything is good communication. So how come so many people are so bad at it?
I’m sure you’ve come across leaders who have many excellent qualities, but never seem to be able to put across what they want to say. And sometimes we’re all guilty of expecting others to be mind readers!
But seriously, if you’re not getting the results you hoped for, in business or in your private life, could it be that your message is not getting across?
Good business leaders pay a great deal of attention to communication. Mastering what you need to say and how you need to say it are important factors if you’re going to be an effective communicator.
However, one crucial element of spoken communication is often overlooked—the way you speak.
Some people’s voices are too soft, or too loud. Some people’s speech is so unpleasant that the audience switch off completely.
But you can take steps to improve the quality, tone and expression of your voice. It just takes a little know-how and practice.
A coke or a cerk?
I remember arriving in London as a school student. I was part of a group of very excited teenagers – we had managed to get tickets for the last night of the proms.
When I approached a stall holder to ask for a drink I encountered my first experience of how important communication is. I said, “Could I have a coke, please?” I’m from Hull, so it sounded like “Could I have a cerk, please?”
He couldn’t understand me. After repeating myself several times, I pointed to the item. His reply was “Oh, you mean coke!” pronounced cowke. I truly thought that was what I was saying!
Now I train people how to speak and to articulate clearly. I love hearing different accents, so I’m not an advocate of us all talking like BBC announcers, but making ourselves heard.
How bad would it be if I went to the bar now and asked for a glass of wine and couldn’t make myself understood?!
Three simple steps…
Here are my tips for improving the way you speak, which in turn will improve your communication skills:
- Don’t speak too quickly – you may be in a rush or feeling nervous, but speaking more slowly not only improves how well your audience comprehends what you’re saying, it also makes you sound more composed and in control.
- Watch your posture. Sitting or standing straight allows you to breathe properly, which will enhance your speech.
- Develop good breathing techniques. If you take shallow breaths your voice will sound weaker and lack projection. It can be tough when you’re nervous or stressed, but taking deeper breaths will improve the quality of your voice and can help you feel and appear more confident.
The more you practise, the easier it becomes, so give it a go at home in front of the mirror, test yourself out with friends or family or record yourself and play it back.
It might feel strange at first! But you’ll soon notice the difference in the way you communicate, and the way people respond to you.