In terms of content, it’s essential to structure our thoughts logically, as well as choose our words carefully. Just as important are projections, pronunciation, and diction. After all, in order to be a good communicator, you need to go beyond language skills.
In other words, you need to learn to speak with clarity
Whether you’re having a one-on-one meeting, speaking at an industry, or just shooting the breeze with friends or family, communicating with clarity shouldn’t be overlooked. It ensures that you’re delivering the right message. And, more importantly, that the other party gets that message loud and clear.
What’s more, it’s possible to learn to speak with clarity. And, to get started, here are nine strategies to utilize.
Identify and overcome obstacles.
In my opinion, identifying the obstacle should definitely be you’re starting point. How can you speak clearly without first identifying the overcoming the obstacles holding you back? It’s like trying to go on a bike ride when you have a flat tire.
While everyone has their specific hurdles, one way to identify your obstacle is to play time management games. These games reveal to you where you have unclear speech, as well as time issues.
Here are the most common challenges to clear speech and communication — and how you can resolve them.
Unclear speech results from a variety of factors, such as being nervous. As a consequence, words become muddled up with consonants since vowels have become shortened. In fact, it’s when speaking, we should aim for about 140 words per minute.
Slowing down your speech and talking deliberately (at first) helps form your sounds more accurately. And, this gives your listeners time to process what you’re saying.
But, how can you slow down? One suggestion would be practicing deep breathing while speaking. You can also try the following;
- “Practice Speaking and Self-Monitoring” exercises
- Recording yourself practicing a speech. Not only does this let you hear how fast you’re talking, reciting your speech builds confidence.
- “Shadowing” others, such as watching TED Talks and then, mimic speakers.
- Working with a coach or consultant.
Slowing down naturally can best be accomplished by breathing deeply while speaking. After you gain clarity — in this day and age — I also think we need to step up the pace again when speaking. Slow speech aggregates those who are in a rush — which is most of us. Become clear in your speech first — then speed it up again. (I’d say it takes six months to a year to get this right, you can’t rush it — and it takes a lot of practice.)
Another common culprit is mumbling. And, this usually goes hand in hand with fast speech. The reason for this is that the mouth doesn’t open as much when speaking quickly. In turn, the sound of your speech gets distorted since it’s being squeezed between your teeth.
The best way to address mumbling is by relaxing your jaw and tongue. Doing so will allow you to speak clearly and with greater precision. You can also use some of the strategies listed above, such as recording yourself. A more strange technique would be speaking with a cork in your mouth because it makes your mouth work harder to pronounce the words more clearly.
Some people mumble because of self-confidence — they don’t really believe what they have to say is important. Believe what you have to say has merit, and it will help with clarity. If you know you are mumbling today — just be quiet and listen.
A quiet voice.
Speaking too softly or not loud enough will result in a lack of clarity. What do your listeners have to work with when you aren’t putting enough sound into the room?
The more breath you take and the more vibrations you feel in your body, the more power you will be able to produce without straining. Keep in mind though, that your voice will appear louder to you than to your listeners. This is awkward, but don’t worry too much about it. Again — record and listen to your voice — continually adjust to the correct volume for the situation.
Others may find it difficult to understand you when you have a thick accent. But, there’s nothing wrong with having an accent — all of us have one. But, depending on who is listening to it, it may be difficult to understand.
An accent is more problematic when combined with a weak voice or fast rate. As a result, a strong accent may cause confusion and frustration. Before you start speaking, make sure that you’re projecting well and speaking slowly. It could be as simple as that.
Usually, with a thick accent, you will need a coach. Listen to Arnold Schwarzenegger in his first movies — you can hardly understand him. Listen when he was California’s governor — quite a bit better in his speaking. Listen to him today — he’s understandable. Schwarzenegger put a lot of time into his muscles — and in speaking better — with tons of work, many coaches, and practice. Speaking well and with clarity doesn’t happen by accident; it takes difficult work and practice.
Speaking with clarity is like anything else worth doing well — it takes practice and concentrated work to get it right. There are many YouTube’s about speaking well — look up a few of these.
Stay in your wheelhouse.
“The ‘most natural’ way to project confidence when we speak is when it’s done from the position of authority or as an expert,” says writer and wellness advocate Evelyn Marinoff. “We all tend to pay close attention to such individuals and believe pretty much everything that they say. Because they ‘know their stuff.’”
“So, find your strengths and passions, and further develop them—become the best you can at what you do.”
This was actually a conversation my brother and I recently had. My argument was that I get turned off by people who are considered experts because they have a platform. It’s like when a celebrity champions a diet. They may not be wrong. But, they aren’t nutritionists and, so you should take their advice with a huge grain of salt.
Being an authority figure doesn’t just give you “brownie points with others—mainly, in the form of respect and appreciation, it will also breed confidence. In turn, this “makes us better armed to face the world, to weather adversities, and to calm down our nervousness and self-doubting.”
You don’t have to use big words.
It’s not uncommon for educated people and thought leaders to use a lot of big words when speaking. I can’t vouch for them all personally, but I believe it’s because they think that this will validate that they “know thief stuff.”
However, this isn’t always true. For some, having an extensive vocabulary is merely a tactic to hide behind. As a result, your arguments become misrepresented. And, that defeats the whole purpose of communicating with others.
Does this mean you should avoid big words all the time? Of course not. Sometimes they are more accurate and superior to their smaller cousins.
If you don’t want to exasperate or offend your audience, define big words before using them.
Captivate and engage others.
Piggybacking from the last point, an audience that doesn’t understand you won’t be able to benefit from your expertise. And, that might be because you’re using jargon. Remember, just because you and your colleagues throw around industry terms freely doesn’t mean that everyone is aware of their meanings.
Unless you know your audience, like their backgrounds and motivations, steer clear of the complicated words or acronyms that your audience is not familiar with. It’s a surefire way to lose them and prevent them from being engaged and captivated.
Another suggestion? Keep your explanations simple and clear. This guarantees that your audience can relate to and understand them. And, when they, you’ll be able to maintain their attention
In the words of Albert Einstein, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
Read a Thesaurus.
Using different words can ensure that other people will understand what you’re saying. By using synonyms and changing a sentence structure, it will be much easier to get someone’s attention. But, repetition is needed to initially grab their attention.
Repetition has a special quality that’s called “specialty.” This is because people can say the same thing in a variety of ways. It will be in your best interest to learn a wide range of synonyms and related words.
Here are just a couple of examples in action:
- When you can’t think of a specific word, for example the word goal, you could say, “aim” or “objective” instead.
- When you’re talking to someone and they don’t understand what you mean — you can use goals or intentions.
- When you wish to reiterate your point — if you say, “we need to reduce expenses by creating a budget. This would save us a lot of money.” The short explanation gives clarification to the sentence.
Write more often.
It becomes easier to speak more clearly when you’re able to write well. Over time, your vocabulary, sentence structures, and arguments will become second nature.
The reason? It helps you prepare and think ahead. As a result, you do not need to focus on your structure or vocab. Instead, you can focus on your presentation structure in order to avoid mistakes. Even if you’re busy as heck, try writing in a journal during your morning routine for a couple of minutes may help.
Another benefit of writing? It allows you to put several arguments inside one another. In other words, writing allows your audience to find the beginning of your sentence so that they don’t get confused. You can’t do that when you’re speaking.
Therefore, don’t nest ideas inside each other. Be concise when writing and end one thought before starting another. When you clearly end a sentence — you won’t lose your audience. More importantly, the listeners can walk away with the key points you wanted to relay.
Image credit: william fortunado; pexels; thank you!