Communication is a skill that needs to practiced and honed over time. It's more like playing piano or running a marathon than having amazing cheekbones or big feet.
This is not the way most of us think and feel about it though. “We hear the word ‘communication’ and think our way of doing it is just a part of our identity. We say, ‘I don't know why I talk or write this way, I just do!’," according to Chiara Sulprizio, a communication coach and Classics professor. In her view, we also tend to get hung up on issues of style instead of substance, which may not always be a productive approach for improving our skills.
As a communications and empowerment coach who specializes in helping women improve their personal relationships and achieve their professional goals, Chiara focuses on owning your voice.
“My goal is to shift us away from a passive understanding of communication, as something that just happens, to seeing it as an active pursuit. This is why people say you have to ‘find your voice,’” Chiara says. “It requires effort and engagement!”
By practicing your communication on a regular basis and challenging yourself to make small changes over time, you can become more comfortable with your abilities. In turn, you can become more nimble, more confident and better able to respond when difficult or uncomfortable conversations arise (and you can be sure that they will!).
In advance of her MOD workshop presentation, “The Practical Woman’s Guide to Effective Communication” (which is happening on April 27th), Chiara shared these five tips you can practice starting now.
1. RECOGNIZE THE POWER OF A WELL-PLACED MOMENT OF SILENCE.
Don’t fear it, own it! Instead of saying “umm” or “well” (in answer to a question, for example), try to take a second, INHALE and let it hang in the air while you gather your thoughts and then respond.
2. PLAN AHEAD.
Come up with a short list of go-to alternatives for words or phrases you want to limit or for awkward situations you want to prevent. Then start incorporating them into your daily interactions. So, for example, if you feel like you say “sorry” too much, try out some variations like “unfortunately”, “I hope you understand” or “I’m afraid that…” It may feel odd at first, but giving yourself options about how to respond before you are in the moment can go a long way toward creating clarity and conveying confidence.
3. FOLLOW A LEADER.
Find someone whose message and style you admire, and use them as a model to emulate. Watch them speak in video clips and listen to them in recordings, take notes about what you like and use it yourself!
4. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM.
Ask a trusted friend or colleague to listen to you and give you feedback on how you are doing with whatever goal you want to achieve. You might even ask them to record you and then listen to yourself to see what, if any, habits you’d like to change. (You can also hire a coach to help you out with this!)
5. THINK BEFORE YOUR SPEAK.
This may seem obvious but, whenever possible, spend some time thinking about what you want to say before you say it. What is the ultimate message you want to get across? Once you have explained it to yourself, summon your passion and your bravery, and do your best to speak your message from the heart.
Join us at our MOD meeting on Wednesday, April 27 to learn more from Chiara about how to communicate your best self.