By John Todorovic
Our society and corporate culture can get busy at times chasing results. As a matter of fact, we get busy chasing them so much, that we forget to focus on what matters most, people. Would you agree?
In every organization, we need to have a clear understanding of what is going on and how we are moving forward. Why is this so important? Because it ultimately results in a better environment for development of team members.
How do we get the clear understanding? Effective Communication. Most common cause of misunderstandings in any environment is lack of communication. When individuals and teams do not communicate effectively, they can't achieve the desired results. What would be the best way to avoid this situation? PPS ... Practice Public Speaking.
Definition of Fear
For some people, public speaking refers to a person standing on a stage in front of a crowd and talking about specific subject. In reality, it can refer to many different situations where someone is trying to get the idea across. This can be done in a formal and informal manner. Seminars and workshops, team briefings, keynote speeches, family gatherings, weddings and many other events.
According to research from Psychology Today, number one fear that people have is fear of public speaking or Glossophobia. In fact, Glenn Croston, states in his article from November 2012 that surveys have shown most people fear public speaking more than they fear death. Would you believe that?
Specific symptoms of speech anxiety or glossophobia can be placed into three categories: physical, verbal, and non-verbal. When the time comes to address the audience, people get scared beyond control. That fear can be manifested in many ways, but the most common symptoms are: increased heart rate, nausea, dry mouth, uncontrollable shaking and quivering voice. Did you ever experience those symptoms?
Since those are the symptoms, we need to tackle how to overcome them and become an effective communicator. Do you know what is the first step in solving those problems? Learning to be patient. If you have patience to learn, stop reading this article for a moment and say: “I have patience!”.
We will discuss three topics relevant for achieving effective communication:
- Active Listening
- Elements of Communication
- Overcoming Fear
1. Active Listening
All great speakers are also great listeners. Listening is a crucial skill that you need to work on. I'm not referring to the fact where someone is sitting or standing and just listening to whoever is talking. Active listening requires you to participate in a conversation with the other person. This process can be broken down to these points:
- Stop what you are doing. It is important to remove all the distractions in order to actively listen. That includes cellphones. Provide 100% of your attention to the person speaking.
- Consistent eye contact. This will show to the speaker that you are listening and paying attention to what he/she is saying. Make sure that you use balanced approach to the eye contact. You don't want to scare someone by starring.
- Understand and affirm. It is not enough just to listen and maintain eye contact. You should be involved by creating positive affirmations like nodding. This shows to the speaker that you understand the speech.
- Be empathetic. To be fully immersed in a conversation, you need to feel what the other person is feeling. If the speaker is happy, feel that happiness. If the speaker is sad, feel the sadness and empathize.
You can improve listening skills by preparing yourself to listen and distinguish between intentional messages and noise. There will be a lot of noise in your life. It is up to you to decide which one you want to keep.
2. Elements of Communication
Now that we learned how to actively listen, let’s look into the elements of communication. There are 4 main elements of communication:
- Verbal/Vocal – Spoken Words
- Verbal/Non-Vocal – Written Words
- Non-Verbal/Vocal – Paralanguage (pitch, volume and speaking rate)
- Non-Verbal/Non-Vocal – Body Language (facial expressions, gestures and eye contact)
It is of the essence that you speak with meaning. Spoken words will influence your listeners because language is expressive. With language, we can:
- Express observations: “I saw a broken cup near the table”
- Express thoughts: “I think I saw a broken cup near the table”
- Express feelings: “I think I saw a broken cup near the table and I felt sad”
- Express needs: “I think I saw a broken cup near the table. I felt sad and wanted to collect the pieces to clear it”
Written words play equal role in communication, because if you write without meaning, you will not be able to get your message across.
Non-verbal communication affects the verbal in way that it can contradict, reinforce or complement it. What do I mean by that? Let’s say that you want to express sadness. If you are trying to convey a sad message, and have a happy face on, you will be contradicting yourself. On the other hand, if you follow your verbal message with matching non-verbal communication, you will reinforce it.
Adding pitch and volume to your spoken words will complement your message. Speaking rate will allow the audience to absorb it appropriately.
Incorporating body language will truly add meaning and credibility your speech. Imagine saying the following example with suggested parts of communication in parenthesis.
- I feel amazing (without body language)
- I feel amazing (only with facial expressions)
- I feel amazing (only facial expressions and gestures)
- I feel amazing (facial expressions, gestures and eye contact)
Which of the examples conveyed the best message? The last one, of course. While there are 4 main elements of communication, would you know which element is the most important? Can you guess?
As a matter of fact, all four elements play equal role. To be effective communicators, we need to strive to implement all elements in our conversations.
3. Overcoming Fear
Do you fear or have you feared speaking in front of people? While there may be multiple ways of overcoming that fear, the first approach is to determine what causes it.
What happens to your mind and body when you are afraid of something? You get hit by adrenaline rush and your body enters the fight, flight or freeze mode. Dr. Maria Deibler, founder of the Center for Emotional Health of Greater Philadelphia in United States, defines an adrenaline rush as an intense activation of nervous system. Your heart beat increases drastically and your brain is telling you that you should find a way out, fast! Do you know that feeling?
How do you prevent that from happening? You can't. What can you do? You can learn to control and channel your nervousness. Practice proper breathing. This is essential, because a lot of people get excited to the point that they don't breathe properly or completely forget to breathe. You start talking about something and keep on talking and talking until you run out of air. Have you ever encountered a situation where you ran out of breath?
You can also perform some stretching exercises which release endorphins, your body’s natural antidote for stress. While doing that, visualize the success with positive thinking. Know that you have courage! If you believe you have, stop reading this article for a moment and say: “I have courage!”
Do you know what is the most important step to take to overcome it? You need to walk out in front of people and face your fear. Do you believe that you can overcome that fear and become an effective communicator? Are you confident? If you are, stop reading this article for a moment and say: “I am confident!” Doesn’t it feel amazing?
Ways to Improve
You may have heard of an impromptu speech. This speech gives you little to no time to prepare. That means you need to be able to think on your feet and create a speech as you go. Even though it’s the most difficult type of speech to master and it builds high levels of speech anxiety, it is a great way to practice your public speaking skills.
You can use your impromptu skills everywhere. From conversations with friends, to work briefings and job interviews. Would you like to able to think and speak spontaneously? Practicing impromptu speaking is the right choice for you.
Once we get the clear understanding, we can achieve the desired results. Let us focus on creating a better environment for development of our communication skills. Most of all, let us have patience to learn; let us have courage to speak; let us have confidence to succeed.