Do you ever diminish yourself or your abilities when you communicate?
There are many ways you can short-change yourself when you speak in public: here are six of them. In the past, I’ve done all of them!
Before the list, some quick thoughts.
Your listeners take their cue from you as you speak, so it’s important not to let unhelpful habits ‘take over’ your presentations.
Anything that fogs up your message, or adds extra filters, will usually prevent your audience from being able to 1. understand and 2. retain your ideas and suggestions.
They may also think that you don’t know what you’re talking about!
Assuming this isn’t true (you do know your topic!) here’s my perspective on what can go wrong, and some ways to fix it.
Pitfalls and solutions:
1. Not trusting your ideas fully enough. This one’s particularly for you if you’re in the business of creating change, influencing, persuading.
Not trusting in the power of our ideas to make a difference in the world is often the biggest internal block we have to overcome. A great solution is to remind yourself that you have something to offer, and reconnect with that again.
I’ve personally found it helpful to write down a list of reasons why and how I add value, and to document my wins. When I need these, I whip them out to remind myself, and that’s usually enough to remind me to be bold again.
To give you a real communication 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. She’d always held back. “My whole experience at work changed as a result” she told me. “My colleagues started listening to, and respecting my opinions in a whole new way, and life in the office became so much more rewarding”.
As a result, this client ended up changing her mind and staying in that organisation!
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 compelling to your audience, drained by the enormous pile of options available to them. I know that you don’t want to come across as arrogant, and there’s always a balancing act around certainty. But if ‘weak wording’ applies to you, move further in the direction of certainty as an experiment. You’ll be more powerful 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, and in women) 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 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 might be able to practise some of the concepts in your personal life too, which is a great way to accelerate your progress.