Two of the most important things to remember when it comes to getting better at speaking and communicating are that you can get better at anything you want to with some work and practice.
The second is that everyone finds things challenging at first and has to go through an uncomfortable period of growth. Here’s how you can become a more confident speaker and communicator.
An essential part of self-development is recognising weaknesses and having the desire to improve on them. This is a skill in itself and demonstrates ambition and self-awareness. Think about what skills you specifically need to improve on and what you are already good at in relation to speaking and communicating.
These are some of the skills related to communicating:
- Asking questions
- Introducing yourself and others
- Remembering information
- Written communication
- Reading out loud
- Talking on the phone
- Video calls
- Teaching others
- Chatting one-on-one
- Speaking in front of small groups
- Speaking in front of large groups
It’s possible to reframe some of the tasks related to speaking and communicating to make them more enjoyable. For example, if you dislike networking events and don’t like talking about yourself, you can reframe them as events where you listen and learn about others and ask them questions. By focusing on listening instead of speaking, you can quash your nerves, and the conversation will flow better.
How to listen:
- Really think about what the person is saying, not what you are going to say next.
- What do they want to tell you? Not: what do you want to hear?
- Be curious.
- Ask questions.
Answer the following questions:
- What will being a more confident communicator allow you to do?
- What benefits would it bring to your life?
- Who are some role models for you?
- What do you think makes someone a good communicator?
To make progress, we need to step outside our comfort zone, but it’s up to you how far you go. What’s the smallest step you can take to improve?
Here are some ideas:
- Have a video call
- Ask a question in every class you have
- Do a mock interview with a friend
- Teach someone something
- Do a talk to a small group or online
- Go to a networking event
- Do a talk about something you know a lot about and are passionate about
Getting out of your comfort zone will give you a competitive advantage when it comes to things like job interviews or starting a business. The more you practice and push yourself, the more benefits that you’ll gain. Many people don’t like public speaking, networking or job interviews, so the better you get at communicating, the more you’ll set yourself apart.
12 tips for public speaking
- Don’t think about how you can come across as clever or the authority; think about how you can help the person or people you’re speaking to.
- If you are comfortable having a conversation with a friend and answering questions when you’re chatting, then there’s no reason that you can’t do this in a more formal or public situation, like on a panel or in a job interview.
- Nerves are to be expected, and nerves can be helpful. Being nervous and being excited feels very similar.
- Do as much research and preparation as you can to feel more confident.
- Make some notes beforehand.
- Record videos and audio notes on your phone.
- Ask a friend if you can practice with them.
- Start small. There are opportunities everywhere for you to get better at communicating, so think about the right next step for you.
- No one will mind if you make a mistake, stumble a bit or pause. Do you mind when other people do? It makes you human, and it actually makes people warm to you.
- Tell people that you feel a bit nervous or make a bit of a joke of it – it will break the tension.
- Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know or you’ll find out the answer and get back to them. Don’t try and blag it.
- Don’t forget to breathe.
When you have been in a situation where you’ve been communicating, reflect on your experience. What went well, and what could have gone better? What would you do differently next time? And look back at how far you’ve come. It’s easy not to notice the progress you’ve made, and it’s important and motivating to give yourself the credit you deserve.
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Sophie Cross is the Editor of Freelancer Magazine and a freelance writer and marketer at Thoughtfully.