One of my direct reports asked for help with verbal communication – not specifically public speaking, but it could include that. She’s a writer and very in her own head, and wants to learn some tools for improving verbal communication so she can feel more comfortable speaking up and verbalizing ideas, strategy, etc. She often knows what she wants to say in her head, but she has a hard time saying everything in a clear, succinct way by the time that idea gets to her mouth.
You can think and write well – but when it comes to speaking, you’re a mess.
Why is this? Isn’t clarity of mind sufficient to express your thoughts?
I have a friend who is extremely shy and soft-spoken. He works as a game programmer in his day job. Some time ago he got invited to an Open Mic session at Clarke Quay, a historical riverside quay in Singapore.
When it came to his turn, he went up to the stage and started singing.
But he didn’t just sing. He sang with such expression and visceral emotions that his whole body just flowed and danced with the song. You couldn’t tell he was a shy introvert at that moment.
And he sang for a whole 11 minutes.
At the end of it, everyone got up and gave him a standing ovation.
You might fumble when having a normal conversation or giving a speech. But when it comes to expressing yourself through another form, the barriers dissolve and beauty takes its place.
In the case of my friend, his channel was singing.
It could be drawing, writing or even cooking for you.
Thing is, you can’t just start singing soprano at the top of your voice in a sprint planning meeting right? Even if that’s your preferred channel 😛
What are the forms of expression where you often struggle with?
The more specific you can get, the better.
Maybe you don’t like to talk about yourself to other people. Or you have difficulties communicating technical concepts in layman’s terms.
The car batteries start discharging
Condensation forms in the crankcase and fuel system
Tires deflate and degrade
That’s why car owners who come back from long overseas trips find that their cars just wouldn’t start
Similarly, certain expression channels you have were blocked for a reason. Maybe it’s due to bad experiences in the past or a less than ideal environment.
What makes it worse is that the gunk results in you avoiding using that channel for prolonged periods. Which leads to deterioration and atrophy.
Once you have figured out your blockages, it’s time to come up with targeted action steps.
A great way to ease into learning verbal communication is teaching.
Teach someone about a subject. Use a subject that you are intimately familiar with so it’s not so much about your knowledge, but your delivery. Pick a willing student who will ask questions and show support.
That’s when your car engine restarts again and you can manoeuvre out of the parking lot.
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