We often make judgements about people within the first 5-10 seconds of meeting them for the first time. Usually, that initial impression will be in one of two areas: how we look (not just how we look, but how our dress, our hairstyle, our mannerisms) and how we speak. Speaking properly and speaking well are really two different animals, but we are going to touch on both in this session.
To speak properly requires a proper knowledge of language as well as proper rules of usage of language. In our Western culture, it is common to substitute slang or common words where, with a little thought, a more select vocabulary would help you sound more educated, more successful. Even in business, some corporate cultures allow the softening of the language to become acceptable. However, I challenge us to not live every day as a linguistic “Casual Friday”; instead use these simple steps to improve your ability to speak properly:
1) Read. Read a lot. Read the classics, current best-sellers, biographies, history. Studies show that people who are well-read have a higher degree of comprehension of others, as well as a higher degree of communication to others.
2) Listen. Listen a lot. Listen intently to communicators who use their voices to communicate with a wide audience. A great example is to listen to nation news anchors from the major networks. Watch as well; watch for facial inflections; listen for tone, pace, rhythm; then see how they match to form a singular aural-visual communication tool.
Speaking well requires practice. Speaking well takes all your concentration and focus. Speaking well will require that you become familiar with your style, your influences, and your desired outcome. And the best way to prepare to speak well is to practice your pronunciation.
Pronunciation is key to all communication. A lazy delivery will always (ALWAYS) influence your listener. So when you practice, make sure your pronunciation is accurate, smooth, and intelligible. Try to minimize your cultural or regional inflection. You don’t need to get rid of it altogether; however, you may experience times when your regional inflection may prevent your connecting with those from a different region. Daily practice, constant listening, and experience will become your best friends in learning to practice pronunciation.
One more thing I have noticed- people who pronounce well, who speak well, who speak properly- speak that way all the time. All. The. Time. Please don’t think you can turn your communication skills on and off; put into practice what you practice. Do it every day, all the time. You will quickly become more consistent, and therefore, more skilled, and hopefully, more successful in communicating.
The final installment in this series will be Presentation…