Making Good Speakers Great

Clear Communication Skills

There are many reasons that motivate people to seek out a speech coach, but all of them usually fall into one of three broad categories, and they are clarity, confidence and credibility. Every client that walks into my office is concerned with at least one of those issues, and every improvement we seek is aimed at reinforcing those three critical traits.

Clarity is often considered when we think about content, structuring our thoughts in a logical sequence and choosing the right words. We even acknowledge the importance of things like projection, pronunciation and diction. But good communication skills require more than just language. You need more than just your mouth and your brains.

To communicate well, you must do more than just say the words. You must care for the listener and make sure they get the message. It’s easy to overlook that final phase of the process when you have the advantage of knowing what you’re about to say, before you’ve said it. ┬áDon’t assume you’re being clear.

Here are some common obstacles to clarity. Addressing these issues will ensure you have the communication skills to be consistently and easily understood.

Fast rate is one of the most common causes of unclear speech. Vowel sounds get shortened and words become a jumble of consonants. Slowing the rate of your speech gives you time to form sounds accurately and gives your listeners time to absorb what you’ve said. Learning to breathe deeply while speaking is one of the most effective strategies for slowing down naturally.

Mumbling often goes hand in hand with fast speech. When you speak quickly, your mouth doesn’t have time to open very far. Speech sounds get distorted while being squeezed through your teeth. Practicing jaw and tongue relaxation creates more openness in your mouth and encourages more precision in the formation of vowels and consonants.

A quiet voice often contributes to a lack of clarity. When you’re not putting enough sound into the room, your listeners have nothing to work with. Using more breath, feeling sound vibrations in your body and allowing your voice to fill the room will generate more power, without straining. Remember, your voice will seem louder to you than it sounds to your listeners. Get used to it.

An accent can make it difficult for others to understand you. There’s nothing wrong with accents. In fact, everyone has one, depending on who’s listening. But a strong accent can lead to confusion and even frustration, especially if it’s combined with a quiet voice and/or fast speech. Learning to improve a few strategically selected language skills will often produce dramatic improvements in clarity. But first, make sure you’re speaking slowly and projecting well. That might be all that’s required.

Failure to speak clearly is not a minor inconvenience; it has serious implications for your personal image and professional success. When listeners struggle to understand you, they eventually ignore you. Addressing the underlying causes enables you to communicate fluently and distinctly. Enhancing clarity not only strengthens your communication skills, it improves your image and makes others more responsive to your message.

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