We spend a considerable amount of time in contact with people: talking,
arguing, exchanging ideas, chatting, listening, giving information and voicing
our opinions, and our feelings. Most communication occurs without individuals
being very conscious of what is going on between them.
Interpersonal communication is the communication that takes place
between persons. This is something we do normally from the time
we are born. It is tempting to assume that our communication skills
come to us as part of our natural development. Yet some people develop
into very effective communicators, while others barely reach survival
The ability to communicate effectively in public is a pre-requisite
for success in all spheres of life, more so in today's competitive
environment. Fear of speaking in public, whether it is to deliver
a speech, interact in a group discussion or face an interview panel
is a major obstacle on your way to the top. This fear is normal,
even professional performers and entertainers experience it. They
just train hard and learn to control it. Fear of the audience is
a mental attitude - replace it with confidence, which is another
mental attitude. Your self-image controls your level of nervousness
when you are in front of an audience or in the midst of unfamiliar
people and it is based on an interpretation of all past experience.
Your sub-conscious inhibits your performance by eroding your poise
and confidence. You can build up your self-image by a positive attitude
and 'self-talk'. So to the degree that your self-talk is constructive,
expanding and complimentary, you are building within yourself a
belief system that is positive, confident and constructive. Your
present thoughts determine your future success. As you visualize
being confident and speaking effectively in front of a group, you
will unconsciously move in that direction.
Developing a Personal Program
Utilizing the Non-Verbal Channel by Understanding
How it Works
The Way You Speak
Watch out for!
How do you speak?
a Personal Program
To become a confident and effective speaker you must
develop a personal program that provides actual speaking experience
and the opportunity to apply the knowledge provided here. You can
adopt this strategy:
- Begin by shutting yourself up in a room and reading aloud.
Record and play back to check your pronunciation, articulation,
diction, speed and tone of voice. If you can't be objective, take
the advice of someone whose judgement you can trust.
- Then speak on topics of current relevance for about ten minutes.
Do it daily for one or two months. Listen to your own tape-recorded
speeches. Take special care to cut down on the use of words such
as `OK', `you know', `understand?', `like', 'anyway', etc. These
overworked words are very irritating to listeners, so eradicate
them through practice.
- Listen to the news on radio and television to improve your
pronunciation and diction, etc.
- Read and write regularly in the language you wish to communicate
in, in order to develop a better command over it.
- Observe those who communicate well, pick up their special strategies,
and use them whenever you have the opportunity to speak.
- Read and discuss current issues with friends and family - the
better your knowledge base, the more faith you will have in yourself.
- Understand the basic process of communication - this is an important
step towards becoming an effective speaker.
- Prepare and practice at every opportunity. Speak and speak again
and see your confidence and effectiveness grow.
How you deliver your presentation can be as important
as what you say. The impression that is created from what you say
is actually built upon verbal and non-verbal communication. Verbal
communication itself, contains non-verbal elements. Research has
revealed that communication goes far beyond words. Only seven to
ten per cent of interpersonal communication is traceable to words,
the rest is contained in non-verbal elements. About fifty-five per
cent is the result of facial expression and other body language
and the balance comes from how we use our voices. Understanding
how the verbal channel operates is easy, as we have gained a high
degree of control over our verbal output as a direct result of our
education. We have spent an enormous amount of time and energy since
childhood in mastering language.
Non-verbal language has always been used, but not perceived as
belonging to an organized communication system. So we are not adept
at controlling or altering non-verbal messages. Consequently, the
non-verbal channel accurately reflects our true underlying meaning.
If we are out of touch with our real feelings or choose to conceal
them, then our verbal statements (reflecting how we think we ought
to feel) and our emotions (revealed through non-verbal clues) contradict
each other. The climate best suited for optimum communication is
when feelings and verbal behavior coincide - verbal and non-verbal
signals transmitted are congruent. Frequently, however, verbal and
non-verbal messages become mixed - the listener picks up this discrepancy
and invariably relies on his non-verbal instincts and chooses to
believe the non-verbal messages. If properly orchestrated, non-verbal
messages will enhance your delivery by enriching the presentation
the Non-Verbal Channel by Understanding How it Works
We get non-verbal messages from a number of sources:
face, eyes, head, hands, body, the way people stand, sit, move,
where people stand or sit in relation to each other, how they hold
and move their hands, arms, legs and so on. Whether we are aware
or not, we constantly pick up and transmit non-verbal signals, more
or less all the time. The words we use to communicate are important,
but it is just as important to be aware of what non-verbal signs
can tell us about other people and others about us.
Ready to listen
Frown, raised eyebrows
Lack of contact
Supercilious, looking down
Nodding up and down
Shaking from side to side
Legs crossed away
Hand to chest
|Drumming (tapping) fingers
Remember that your body is always communicating. Effective signals
in talking and listening to someone are:
- Facing the person
- Having an open posture
- Leaning towards the person
- Keeping good eye contact
- Being relaxed
Way You Speak
Proper use of your voice attributes - speed, tone, volume,
pitch - to support your delivery with proper phrasing and emphasis
will send positive messages to your listeners and make you appear
more confident, animated, relaxed and articulate. Vocal inflection
can be effectively controlled and used for dramatic effect. Vocal
inflection refers to ways in which you can vary your voice; these
variables include speed, pitch, volume and pause.
The speed at which you talk is generally affected by what
you are talking about, and how you feel about it. If you are excited,
you will quicken up, and if you are bored, you will slow down. You
can convey urgency and importance by speeding up, but if you speak
quickly all the time, the urgency will be lost - and so will the
clarity. Again, nervousness might make you gabble, so be aware when
you are gabbling, and speak more slowly than you would naturally;
it will sound fine to your listeners. Very slow speech is also difficult
to listen to. You may be pronouncing every word perfectly, but the
chances are that you will send your listener to sleep. However,
this is not a very common problem; most people tend to react the
Your tone is a vital part of conveying your message. It
can sound sincere, enthusiastic, annoyed; it can tell the listeners
what you think of them; it can tell the listeners how you feel about
what you are talking about, and affect their judgement of it.
You can make the same word mean several things. Try saying the
word 'good' and make it sound:
- Hurried... and anything else you can think of
The most important word to bear in mind is 'appropriateness'. If
your tone is appropriate to what you are saying, how you feel about
it, how you feel about your listener, you are using your tone well.
It is very easy to allow your voice to give you away, and convey
tiredness and irritation when those things are inappropriate to
the situation - or to the person you are talking to. It can be quite
upsetting to be snapped at for no apparent reason. Watch out for
Volume: Speaking too softly to be audible can be a feature
of nervousness. If you tend to do this, practice speaking with your
chin up and try to 'hit' the person farthest from you. Volume control
relies on good, deep, regular breathing, which often becomes quick
and shallow with nervousness. Always take a few deep breaths, preferably
in the open air, before an interview, a group discussion or any
difficult speaking situation.
Varying the volume of your voice can add interests to what you
are saying but take care not too sound too theatrical.
Pitch: The pitch of your voice, whether it is high or deep
- is often affected by nervousness, fear and tension. Your throat
muscles and your vocal chords tighten, and the sound becomes squeaky
or shrill. If this happens to you, practice taking a deep breath
and as you breathe slowly out, say a few short words such as 'I
want to talk'. Your voice will automatically sound better, as it
is physically impossible to breathe out and keep your muscles tight
at the same time.
Record yourself having a conversation with someone - or simply
say a few things into the tape recorder and play it back. If you
are not used to hearing yourself on tape, it can be a shock. You
can sound quite different from the way you think you do. How do
you sound? First check with another person that the recording does
represent your normal speaking voice accurately. Sometimes nervousness
at being recorded makes you speak differently. Bearing in mind what
the person has said, use the following checklist to analyze your
voice, putting a tick beside the things you hear yourself doing.
You will then have an idea of what you can improve upon.
do you speak?
How do you speak? Checklist
- Do you pronounce each word distinctly?
- Do you speak too fast to be understood?
- Do you speak too slowly to hold people's attention?
- Do you run your words together, not leaving enough time in between
- Do you sound sincere?
- Do you sound too loud?
- Do you sound too soft?
- Does your voice sound shrill or squeaky?
- Does your voice sound monotonous?
- Does your voice convey how you feel?
Unless you have been trained to use your voice properly, you will
probably find one or two things you could work on. The discussion
here will give you pointers on how you could improve those areas.
Speaking clearly is within your control. Nervousness and habit
are the culprits if you find that you do not speak clearly. Your
speech might be blurred as a result of clenching your jaw as you
speak (this is a common nervous habit). Tighten your jaw, with your
mouth half closed and say `clear diction is an asset', moving your
clenched jaw as little as possible. Now unclench it, relax it by
moving it up and down a few times and say the same sentence again,
moving your relaxed mouth and jaw freely. You should be able to
hear the difference.
Pauses: Inexperienced speakers believe that during a pause no communication
takes place, so they are afraid to pause while speaking. This is
not true. Pauses are a vital element of non-verbal communication
and are essential for a strong delivery. Pauses aid presentation
in the following ways:
- They make the speaker appear relaxed, thoughtful and confident.
- They assist comprehension by giving the listeners time to think
- They tell your listeners that a thought element has been completed;
here comes the next point.
- They create emphasis when placed in the middle of a phrase or
Diction and Pronunciation: People who mispronounce words
are usually thought to be poorly educated or not very bright. Often
this is not the case as bad diction habits or past environmental
factors can be the cause. Diction and pronunciation problems can
be corrected by practising good diction habits or receiving instruction
from a qualified speech instructor.
Poor Grammar and Vocabulary: Anyone can learn to use correct
grammar by studying a high school grammar book. Vocabulary can be
built up quickly by keeping a lookout for new words and practicing
them. So don't let an inadequate- vocabulary or lack of good grammar
skills undermine your self-confidence and speaking performance.
An effective presentation is logically organized into an opening,
a body and a conclusion. The opening should capture the attention
of the listeners. Use an appropriate quotation, illustration or
story or make a challenging statement or ask a question. Arouse
the listeners' interest in the topic or the theme of your talk.
The body of your presentation should contain the factual support
for your purpose. The amount of time available should be the guide
to the amount of information that you can include.
The conclusion is the destination where you hope to leave your
listeners. Your conclusion should tie in with your opening; it should
be forceful and confident.
Train and practice at home with a tape recorder (if possible
on video camera and recorder). Evaluate your performance: - Excellent
- Very good - Good - Needs improvement, on the following elements:
- Speech development : structure, organization
- Effectiveness : achievement of purpose, interest, reception
- Speech value : ideas, logic, original thought
- Physical : appearance, body language
- Voice : flexibility, volume
- Manner : directness, confidence, enthusiasm
- Appropriateness : to speech purpose and listeners
- Correctness : grammar, pronunciation and word selection
As you practice, you will see yourself develop and you will literally
feel your self-esteem growing. Becoming effective in interpersonal
communication does not mean improving isolated skills; it involves
the whole you. It means developing a more objective awareness of
yourself and how you appear to others. Speaking in public increases
self-confidence and it is this increased self-confidence that allows
you to succeed.