Good Communication as the Starting Point of Change

Daily Standup
Creative Commons License edalisse
I’m an OK speaker and a better listener. I tend to passively engage in regularly scheduled meetings (you know which ones I mean). When some interesting points arise, my radar lights up and I lean forward. When some of those points turn into horrifying half-truths, I gasp inside my head and wonder what in the hell that person was smoking. By the time someone sticks their foot completely in their mouth, I’m frustrated as hell and jump into the conversation bent on “fixing” it.

And you can imagine the outcome…ugghhh. However, I’m lucky to have a great boss who noticed this tendency and suggested I take some speech lessons. There, I learned a tremendous amount about myself and, more importantly, how others perceive me while I’m speaking to them. I now realize how I can become more successful in affecting the difficult changes I’m helping to introduce here at work. And it all starts with a positive connection to your audience.

Remember, the most important thing about speaking is to whom you’re speaking! The only reason you’ve opened you’re mouth is to talk to someone. You’ve already convinced yourself, but now you have to convince your listeners. Engage their attention while speaking, keep them on a tight-leash and make them hang on your every word.

That sounds like a pretty tall order, but I have a few secrets to share for helping you learn how to communicate more effectively.

Positive, open energy: “Yes we can”

Unfortunately, I discovered I have a tendency during serious discussions to appear annoyed. This body language injects itself into my speech making my response overly stern and too harsh. Even though I’m trying to be thoughtful and want an open exchange of ideas, my statement comes out sounding like a critique or ultimatum.

After watching this on film a few times, I could actually feel my eyebrows furrowing while speaking. As I consciously relaxed this, I was better able to open my eyes wider making it easier to smile. Such a small thing but such a tremendous difference in speech! Instead of lecturing, I suddenly seemed very open and engaging – a complete different person was speaking.

Be sure to actively communicate with real energy. Change your pitch and style while speaking, and animate yourself with senseful gestures. These are subtle, yet powerful ways that bind an audience to your message. Without passion, nobody believes what you’re saying and they’ll soon ask themselves why they’re even listening to you at all.

Critical is to remember to carry this energy throughout your entire message! Even if you come in with a bang, you’ve lost all credibility if you go out with a whimper.

Eye contact, keywords and significant pauses

Now that you’ve got your face and voice lit up, start making eye contact. If you’re directly answering someone, this is a no-brainer. Otherwise, look around the table and engage everyone present. You know this intuitively as a listener. If the speaker is looking directly at you, you’re instantly put on alert and become engaged in what they’re saying. You might even catch them nodding in agreement. Time to move on to the next guy.

When speaking, emphasize keywords and deemphasize the filler. Here’s what I mean:

“In a particularly frustrating moment of boredom, the painter set down his brush and grabbed a hairdryer.”

The keywords in this sentence are: “frustrating”, “moment”, “boredom”, “painter”, “down”, “brush”, “grabbed”, “hairdryer”. The filler words are mostly articles, but see how there are actually more of them (9) than keywords (8)? When speaking, be sure to put emphasis with tone and inflection on the keywords.

Find your natural pauses and let them hang in the air. From our sentence above:

“In a particularly frustrating moment of boredom, the painter set down his brush and grabbed a hairdryer.”

These half-breaths carry your meaning across, giving the listener time to digest what you’ve just said while allowing you time to compose your next thoughts.

State your thoughts with clarity and commitment

Simple sentences carry much more impact and are more easily digested than long complex ones. Everything from “I have a dream” to “Ich bin ein Berliner” proves this. So keep is short and to the point. Your audience will appreciate it and may even remember it a week later.

Finally, when speaking, don’t be tentative or sound apologetic. It lowers your status and makes your audience tend to discount the entire message!

The 3 F’s – Forgive, Forgive, Forgive

There’s a lot of content up there to remember, so this is an easy one. If you get tongue-tied while speaking, forgive yourself and move on. You’re only human, and so is your audience. Fix it, carry on with your message and we won’t even remember the mistake.

In the initial video recordings that were made in the class, I broke everyone of these rules. But, with some great tutoring, I improved with exercise. Even cooler, now that I know what to look for, I can just turn on my webcam and record myself speaking “off the cuff” about any random subjects. During playback, I get to pick myself apart and try it again. As with any other skill in life, practice makes perfect!

This two day course was one of the most personal and beneficial trainings I’ve ever received. My highest compliments go to Jamie Chapman and the London Speech Workshop for their superb teaching and sincere desire to “help you help yourself”.

If you are responsible for initiating change in your company, you won’t be able to do it alone. The only way you can get other people on board, is through good communication. If you have any questions at all about the course (or the company), please let me know!

One thought on “Good Communication as the Starting Point of Change

  1. Great article! Putting Energy and Commitment into the words are really key. One miss I am seeing here is ‘Know your audience’. That is a also a key for effective communication.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.