What an extraordinary time we are living in.  How everyone is having to adapt to life without many of our favourite pastimes – but we will get through this season.

The world of training, as every other sphere of work, has had to adapt to a new ‘normal’ for the time being and it is working surprisingly well.  Of course we are not new to the effectiveness of webinars or training via Skype or Zoom – the difference is that now we do not have the choice!

Confident Communicating is enjoying continuing to work with our clients in groups or individually via online platforms.  This is being seen by many as an opportune time to do some public speaking training – you or your team may want to join in.

We usually think communication is about what we or others say, but ultimately it’s about what we or others hear!

Amazingly, we listen best at around the age of three.  As small children, we mimic and copy what those around us say.  At that age our minds are relatively uncluttered and receptive, and it is only as we get older, more opinionated and with more distractions that our ability to listen deteriorates.  Skilful listeners focus on the speaker, and do not allow themselves to be distracted.

Seth Horowitz, an auditory neuroscientist, has said that, unsurprisingly, listening is becoming increasingly difficult in a world filled with digital distractions and one in which we regularly compromise speed for meaning.

Of course we all have our frantically busy moments but we all want to be better leaders, friends, colleagues, parents and spouses and we can be by learning to listen to those we care about.  Some years ago my teenage son said to me in a very memorable moment, “Mum I know that you love me because you listen to me!”

The International Listening Association has published guidelines to help practice and achieve deep listening.  These are some of their recommendations …

  1. Assume a proper physical posture that says “I am open to listen” by
  • Squarely facing the speaker
  • Adopting an open posture, no folded arms
  • Leaning slightly towards the speaker
  • Remembering that eye contact is of great importance
  • Relaxing yourself as you keep silent and focus on the speaker
  1. Limit distractions – put all mobile devices away so you can give the speaker your full attention.
  2. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes – ask yourself “how would I feel if I was in their position?”

Give plenty of room for the speaker to talk and explain so they feel that they have been heard, whatever the ensuing discussion.

  1. Forget your own agenda… Ask questions; get a picture of what they are thinking and feeling.

It takes courage to listen, to lay down our own thoughts, opinions and agendas to give room for someone else, but the results are worth it.  We will then be able to give a wise and considered response instead of an ignorant one.

Happy New Year from Confident Communicating!

I love the start of a new year. It speaks of freshness, newness; new hopes, new dreams, new opportunities … a natural break to celebrate the good things of the previous year and let go of the things that didn’t go so well. A time to get up and keep doing what is working and a time to adjust what needs changing. A time to stir fresh vision.

One thing that is a definite for all of us and that is that we must keep developing and learning. If we think we know it all then we will, at best, stagnate and at worst shrink back. What might our Personal Development goals be for this year ? …

I recently read a letter from the admissions department for Oxford and Cambridge University in which were addressed the concerns of a headteacher asking as to why her academically capable student had not been accepted into either university. The reply was that although the student had a great Personal Statement and had clearly spent his/her time pursuing many worthwhile things there was a big gap in their education … this was firstly an inability to engage in verbal conversation with tutors with confidence and intelligence and secondly, a lack of ability to read English accurately and fluently.

Continuing to develop excellent communication skills and an ability to connect and engage with others must be high on our list of goals for 2020!

Training with Sarah has demystified the art of public speaking. I always thought it was something some people were just naturally good at – and I wasn’t one of them! With Sarah’s help I realised there are some very real skills I could learn to turn me into one of those ‘naturally good speakers’. Thank you Sarah, I feel so much more confident and now I do well with my presentations and speeches.”  JW, Sydney

It is so easy to look at the strengths of others and feel intimidated or lesser and as not hitting the mark ourselves in a particular arena of life. However, as with any area of training and personal development, a little bit of knowledge goes a long way. Get wisdom, get understanding!

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

If we look at an accomplished public speaker when even the very thought of getting up and speaking in front of people makes us feel sick it can make the whole process seem even more overwhelming. However, if we begin to break it down into bite-size pieces and identify what that person is doing well and why they appear so relaxed and confident we are well on our way to conquering the fear and limitations around our own lives.

Some adrenalin and nerves are a positive as we stand up to speak and whether entirely fear-less public speaking is a possibility for every person isn’t really the issue … it is more about facing the fear, overcoming it and growing in skill – we enjoy the things that we feel we do well at! I have testimony after testimony from clients who are actually now enjoying the whole experience of presenting and doing talks in front of colleagues, bosses and peers. There is nothing more rewarding for me than to hear that what was so terrifying for clients is now something they are improving in and even enjoying.

I never thought I could do so well” … “I did soooo well!” … “I felt so confident and in control!

Imagine a typical scenario, if it is not yet typical for you it certainly will be one day! ,… “So-and-so is sick today and so you will have to go and speak to our clients and fill them in on where we are up to with the project!”

Unless you have had some practise at Impromptu speaking then the majority of people’s reponses to that instruction is not one of delight … our body begins to respond to the request and we may manifest a number of physical manifestations such as sweaty palms, heart seemingly beating out of our chest, or brain freeze.

Now, there are a number of well-proven techniques that can help us very practically to handle the above, or similar, situations effectively. However, once we have quickly thought about what we want to say and jotted down some barely legible notes on our phone or bit of paper, we then actually have to vocalise those thoughts and ideas. It is at this point that we have to consider three key things …

Clarity … will people be able to clearly hear and understand what I am saying ?

Fluency … can I fluently and articulately express what I want to say?

Variety … can I speak in a manner that is not going to send my audience to sleep in a matter of a few moments ?

 

I love the English language! However, as a native English speaker I have the utmost respect for those endeavouring to get to grips with the language’s abundance of inconsistencies and idiosyncrasies. There is a wonderful, if rather long, poem called “The Chaos” (Anon) which charts the majority of the rebellious sounds and would challenge the most confident of English speakers!

My wonderful father-in-law spoke nine languages fluently but I couldn’t begin to get my mouth around the unfamiliar guttural sounds, diphthongs and triphthongs that he rattled off effortlessly in Dutch, Indonesian, French, Japanese, Norwegian, Italian, Spanish and German.

It is only with a great deal of practice and focus that ESL students can master the unfamiliar sounds that are ‘th’, ‘v’, ‘s’, ‘sh’, ‘ch’ etc. However, there is no doubt that the investment of time, money and focus does reap great rewards as “Clarity undoubtedly leads to increased Confidence”. It makes the world of difference to my students to know that they can easily be understood and that there is no lid to their potential for promotion, job satisfaction and social interaction.

In extreme situations, our ability to be understood could be a matter of life and death; in more common situations it can save awkwardness, misunderstandings and even the loss of a job. As English continues to be one of the most widely spoken languages and the official language of the majority of nations we need to persevere with ‘The Chaos’ – Get rid of the lid!

 

“It doesn’t matter whether you are in the business of delivering products or services – either way, your success depends heavily on communication. When things go wrong, you can almost always trace the problem to a breakdown in communication. And when things go right, it’s usually great communicators who helped create the successful results. It’s a necessary skill in every aspect of business, social and family life.

How you communicate will determine if you lead, command respect, earn trust and are well liked. Poor communicators will suffer from low self-esteem and frustration.”

This quote from Kevin Duam is so true. Becoming a great communicator is not just about handling big crowds or large audiences but it is in the everyday scenarios of life, in the seemingly insignificant one to one interactions. The great news is that these skills most certainly can be learnt and developed.

There are a number of differences that characterise human beings from the rest of the animal kingdom… one of those differences is our ability to speak – to articulate ideas, thoughts and feelings through the medium of words.  Our ability to vocalise and speak words is nothing short of miraculous when we consider all that is involved – the process of speech production is a highly precise and practised motor skill.

To simplify the whole process, in an everyday conversation, we firstly have to hear clearly; then we process what we have heard; we then consider our response and vocalise it. Mental processing of information is a science all of its own.

Being able to speak is something that most of us absolutely take for granted until we are faced with the onslaught of a stroke, motor neurone disease or an accident that takes away, even in part, our ability to exercise what is a vitally important function in life.

Give thanks everyday for your ability to open your mouth and speak – and work to make it the best possible experience for everyone listening!

 

 

As we find ourselves well into another new year, it is a great time to consider “what am I finding difficult in the world of personal communication?”

Perhaps you are needing …

  • to develop skills to prepare and deliver an outstanding speech or presentation;
  • to work on projecting confidence and assertiveness in work meetings and different work-related situations;
  • help with your staff who are struggling to present themselves well;
  • to prepare for important interviews that will open new doors for you;
  • to work on your voice – sounding more engaging, warm and interesting ;
  • to become more confident that your voice can be heard and understood, that you are getting your message across …

the list goes on of scenarios where clients have overcome fear and limitations and found greater freedom in their communication abilities.

What a privilege it is to help people to achieve their goals and more fully enjoy life!

‘Confident Communicating’ regularly works with people who recognise that a lack of confidence in the areas of effective public speaking and interpersonal communication have held them back from pursuing their dreams and boldly applying for their prize jobs. This fear has stunted growth and kept them in a box. Undoubtedly self-limiting and self-defeating thoughts can trap us into a life that restricts our potential.

Another true observation is cited in Robert Dilenschneider’s book ‘Power and Influence’… “You start to communicate effectively, this leads to recognition and recognition in turn leads to influence”, I would add to that a fourth positive outcome – ‘OPPORTUNITIES’ – improved communication skills undoubtedly lead to open doors as we effectively connect with others!

If you can relate to this – NOW is the time to make a CHANGE, take a STEP and G–R-O-W. There is help at hand and there is nothing more exciting than overcoming those things that have stopped us from moving forwards.