6 ways you can short-change yourself when you speak in publicSarah Denholm
In my work I frequently see clients unintentionally diminish and short-change themselves as they communicate. I’ve also done some of these things myself!
Because our listeners take their cue from us as we speak, it’s vital not to let unhelpful habits cloud our message.
So, what can go wrong, and how can you fix it?
Here are some pitfalls and solutions:
1. Not trusting your ideas fully enough. Not trusting in the power of your ideas to make a difference in the world is often the biggest internal block to overcome. Believe that you have something to offer. Get in touch with your inner conviction – even write down the reasons why you add value as a reminder to yourself – and resolve to be bold!
As an example, a client told me recently that she’d decided to resign from her corporate job, which freed her up to start speaking out and making suggestions more often. “My whole experience at work changed as a result” she told me. “My colleages started listening to, and respecting my opinions in a whole new way, and life in the office became so much more rewarding”.
2. Using “weak” words. It can be easy to retreat to the perceived safety of wishy-washy language such as “this possibly means…”, “perhaps this might…” or “you may not agree with me, but…” when you communicate. These types of comments don’t help your cause.
When you hedge your bets, it keeps you safe from the possibility that your listener(s) may push back and disagree with you. But being willing to stand by what you say shows exactly what your clients or audience are looking for: your authenticity and power. So don’t be afraid to make a statement – literally! This applies particularly if you’re selling an idea (or something tangible). Saying “I guarantee that you…” “I promise that…” “You’ll think differently about…” are all examples of this.
Certainty is attractive to your listeners, drained by the huge pile of options available to them. I know that you don’t want to come across as arrogant, but where applicable, move further in this direction as an experiment. You’ll be more charismatic as a result.
3. Using too many words. There are usually two reasons for this: either not trusting the merit of your ideas (see No.1 above), or because you don’t want to come across as inflexible or dogmatic. Particularly for women, the desire to be inclusive or collaborative can lead to keeping talking when you would be better to just shut up and let your words hang in the air – silence is powerful. Over-explaining, justifying and apologizing fall into this category, and there’s rarely a need for them when you communicate. Being succinct is a relief in today’s marketplace: so say what you mean and then stop.
4. Not using your voice effectively. Sound definite. Make sure that your statements don’t sound like questions (particularly prevalent in Australia) or your audience will think you’re uncertain even if you’re not.
5. Not fully inhabiting the physical space available. Part of diminishing your communication is shrinking from using the full space available to you.
These are common factors:
- Not breathing fully into the space, or remembering to breath consciously to your listener(s). Breathing sends your power out into the world.
- Holding your energy back rather than allowing it to fill the room. If you’re more spiritually inclined, imagine that you and your listener(s) are in a shared energy bubble.
- Not using your peripheral vision but ‘tunnelling’ your visual focus instead. (If this sounds a little mysterious, here’s a link to an article I wrote on this topic.)
6. Not pausing. As well as not inhabiting physical space, it’s also common not to fully inhabit the “time” space available. Take up the space that’s righfully yours: don’t rush to fill silences. Pausing before you speak (more natural for introverts than extroverts!) and between key thoughts is much more impactful than running your ideas together in a word-stream.
Luckily, none of these tips require a personality transplant – just a shift in perspective and some practice. Why not begin with one idea you’d like to work on and try it out over the next week or so? You can practise the ideas in your personal life too, which is a great way to accelerate your progress.
What do you think?