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“If only I didn’t have to speak!”

‘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.

Difficulties with speaking -“Can’t breathe, talk or think!”

 

The whole subject of speaking is absolutely fascinating and difficulties in this area are so often not what they seem on the surface.

Absolutely we can have a difficulty with the distinctness of being able to say our ‘th’ sound or our ‘l’s’ and we need to work on those in order to have clear speech. However, we do have to come at speech work, at times, in a more holistic manner …

In another arena of life, people may experience financial difficulties which could be simply due to the loss of a job or a stream of income, but so often it can be more a symptom of a deeper issue ie. overspending due to lack of self esteem, an inability to budget and so some fiscal discipline and management is needed. Similarly, very often, this can be the case with regards to being able to confidently stand up and speak in front of others. The moment the spotlight is on us, if we are untrained and unskilled in this area, a myriad of thoughts and feelings can manifest which make it extremely difficult to function and do a great job.

Happily, I believe that there are some very practical ways through these difficulties …

Skillful and hilarious communication!

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Take one, not very tall, man; some lights; a huge platform and 20,000 people… all laughing for one and a half hours!

It really is an experience to be in an arena of so many people all laughing together. Laughter is infectious and so good for us – it certainly does good like a medicine.

Such was our very enjoyable evening a few nights ago at the Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney where the hilarious Michael McIntyre was entertaining an enormous crowd with no props, no special effects and no visual aids at all.

It was a great feat of memorisation, engagement with the audience and energy to entertain so many with simply a voice and a body! Michael McIntyre’s ability to make the mundane and familiar so amusing; to laugh at culture and language and be so observant of the people to whose towns and cities he visits, is a gift.  He is a very humorous and skillful communicator.

Some key skills that he exhibited were having great energy and enthusiasm, content that connected with his audience and clearly hours and hours of practise. He was totally professional and flexible when a couple of ladies interrupted one of his stories, and handled the situation with grace and absolutely no sign of panic!!

A few keys for all us public speakers there!

Overcoming the fear of public speaking

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“Hi Sarah, just wanted to let you know that my presentation went really well. I didn’t get that anxious feeling, which was great!”  NH, Sydney

 I love receiving feedback from my clients and hearing how well they have done, and are doing, in achieving their personal communication goals. One of these goals can be about actually beginning to enjoy standing up and sharing our thoughts, knowledge and ideas with others.

What is it about speaking publicly that can make even the most robust of us tremble at the knees, and to be cited as one of the greatest fears for people, second only to the fear of death?

Is it the knowledge of all eyes being just on us? Is it the acute awareness of the responsibility to ‘deliver’? Is it a mistrust in ourselves not to do something that would make us look foolish?

There are certainly proven strategies and techniques for handling nerves that do not include drinking lots of alcohol prior to speaking, or taking beta blockers!

Using your voice

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As we consider the miraculous gift that being able to speak is, we realise that, as with any other gifting, we can ignore it; take it for granted or abuse it.

Most of us probably fall into the second category with regards to using our voices until such time as we strain them through misuse and unwittingly find ourselves in the third category.  However, what about those of us who ignore the gift, and maybe due to negative experiences or self-inflicted limitations, find ourselves for the most part Silent.

Our mental health is improved as we yield to the deeply human need to speak and to be listened to. Remember Wilson, the volleyball that Tom Hanks’ character Chuck, dressed up in the film “Cast Away”. Wilson proved critical to Chuck’s mental health as his deep need to speak to someone – or anything(!) was evidenced.  Some people speak to their dog or cat or plants in the event of having no-one else to speak to.

For those of us who have become “silent”,  it is time to pick up the talking spoon again and start connecting with others verbally.

Happy New Year!

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 2015!

The Power of a Smile

 

As I walked down an extremely busy street in London sometime ago with a friend, a young man stopped me and said in a rather puzzled manner, “Do I know you?” I replied that I did not think so.

Later, as I considered this brief exchange of words, bearing in mind that I certainly had never seen him before; that I am not world-famous nor was he trying a smooth chat-up line, I concluded that the only reason he could possibly have had for stopping me was the fact that I had smiled at him, as I tend to do to many people. This little scenario got me thinking how important it is to maintain an openness and connection with other people even if we do not know them. Mother Teresa said “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.”

Children, apparently, smile about 400 times a day; adults, however, smile 40-50 times a day when happy and only 20 times a day when not! Interestingly though it actually takes far less effort, from a physiological point of view, to smile than it does to frown and I often find myself encouraging clients to remember the power of a smile in connecting with others and simply to feel better.

The benefits of smiling are well documented and proven …

• Smiling helps you to feel happy and relaxed. If you are in a bad mood, simply by choosing to smile you can lift your spirits. Consequently, smiling can change your mood, your feelings, even your resulting actions by helping to generate more positive emotions.

The scientist Andrew Newberg has said that in experiments, the smile was “the symbol that was rated with the highest positive emotional content.”

• Smiling stimulates your brain’s reward mechanisms in a way that nothing can match.

• Smiling boosts your immune system.

• Smiling reduces stress as it leads to a decrease in stress induced hormones, this positively affects physical and mental health.

• Smiling is contagious. A recent study in Sweden showed that it was extremely difficult for others to frown when they looked at others who were smiling!

There is a reason that the most read book in the world says “laughter does good like a medicine”.

It’s All In A Word

Occupied (with upper case O), occupied (with lower case o) or not occupied… How much passion can be aroused over the absence, removal or addition of one small word.  Julie Bishop’s stance to no longer call the Gaza strip “occupied” resulted in much heated debate around the world.

Politicians, lawyers, barristers and writers are, by necessity, very skilled in the art of well and carefully chosen words because, as we have seen so recently, one word can carry so much weight and significance.

Similarly, as excellent communicators – ones who are skilled at conveying information, ideas and policy to others – we must have a broad, rich and well chosen vocabulary.  Some strategies for developing a dictionary in our brains that means we do have the necessary words available are to read, read, read; listen to excellent communicators; learn a new word a week on a dictionary app; do crosswords; play Scrabble etc …

My father had a very broad vocabulary, the result of being an avid reader, and I can still hear him now, in my mind, saying words that I would guess at their meanings and have fun trying to use them myself.

My word for this week is ‘Omniscient’ meaning “all-knowing”!

World Cup Fever

I heard shrieks and shouts coming from our sitting room very early the other morning, my husband was freely utilising his vocal cords!  My son poked his head out of his bedroom and asked if everything was alright … I ventured into the afore-mentioned room to find my darling shouting at the TV as England equalised against Italy – very serious stuff!

It has also been an interesting week for Phil Neville, the former Manchester United and Everton player, who has been maligned in the press for his less than auspicious first effort at commentating.  His co-commentary of the England vs Italy match was met with 445 complaints to the BBC due to his monotone delivery and lack of emotion.  Jokes were made that England’s physio, Gary Lewin, had injured his ankle “falling into a coma” brought on by the monotony of listening to Mr Neville.  Phil responded in a good natured way by saying that he was glad he could help the nation to fall asleep: We may have young children who we would like to be lulled to sleep at bedtime, but not passionate adults wanting to be inspired whilst watching their beloved footie!

It is a problem that, in many walks of life, we can be excellent at our chosen careers but have had no training to enable us to successfully commentate, speak publicly and effectively communicate information or our thoughts and ideas.  I am sure that Phil will now be quick to employ the services of someone who can help him to improve the modulation and energy behind his speaking ….

… Is that my phone ringing now?!

Voice Is Influence

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The Voice!  We hear a lot about Voice these days particularly with regards to the singing voice.  We love to see the buttons pressed, the chairs swing round and the thrilled look on a contestant’s face as they are recognised as potentially having a voice with star quality.

However, Voice is a lot more than just sounding melodious or hitting high notes – as admirable and as practised as all that is.  Voice is about influence, it is also about passion.  Certainly, in some contexts, we can affect and influence others by our actions alone but, nine times out of ten, it is our words  and how we use them – persuasively, kindly, analytically, reasonably, encouragingly or harshly … that brings influence to bear.  We think of the evocative speeches of Martin Luther King Jnr, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Emmeline Pankhurst, Eleanor Roosevelt, Gandhi, Hitler, Lenin, the list goes on … men and women with a Voice and the ability to influence others, some for much good and some for great evil.

We live in a world where it is important to consider how we are using our voices to bring a positive influence in our worlds of families, friends, and colleagues.