In today's high-tech business world, many fast-paced professionals are lost when it comes to face-to-face interaction. An over reliance on emails, cellphone messaging and professional networking sites has made it difficult to effectively deliver a message in person. However, the biggest ingredient that will catapult an averagely successful professional down the path of vast career success is confident interpersonal communication.
Imagine if you could confidently and effectively communicate your ideas and thoughts with a powerful presence even in stressful and challenging situations? Whether you are delivering a prepared message in a meeting, or find yourself on the defensive during a difficult impromptu conversation, you can be poised and ready to handle whatever communication situation comes your way.
1. Stop trying so hard.
In the world of improvisational comedy, trying too hard to be funny instantly makes you not funny and kills the scene. The same is true for interpersonal communication. Whether you are speaking with one person or 100, the moment you start reading your audience and play out your conversation naturally, you will be much more impactful than if you try too hard. Your listeners will detect when you are scripted, overly rehearsed and trying too hard to "wow" them. If they detect this, they will pass you off as insincere.
2. Stop trying to be perfect.
Accept the fact that being afraid of doing it the wrong way is what's holding you back from being the confident communicator you can be. When you seek the unreachable goal of being a "perfect" communicator, you fill your head with paralyzing thoughts like, "It's never going to be good enough" and "What will people think?" Stop holding back, stop playing it safe and watch yourself get better. In truth, your listeners will actually be drawn to you if you are authentic and down to earth.
3. Accept the challenge and go with your gut!
Stop giving in to convenient excuses such as, "I can't," "I'm not a good speaker" or "The last time I did ____, I flopped." Each time you speak those words or allow those thoughts to enter your mind, you are second guessing your ability to do what you can do. As a communicator, you are giving in to the easy way out. Push through those thoughts and accept the challenge when it appears. The next time you are unexpectedly asked to present at a meeting or have been caught off guard to say something, accept the challenge and go with your gut. It won't let you down.
4. Be flexible and adaptable.
Let go of the tendency to anticipate every move or fulfill every need of your listener. Take the time to thoroughly know your material, and loosely sketch out what you want to say or how you want to say it. Then, be open to changing things up as you go along. You will connect with your audience, and they will appreciate it.
5. Give them the unexpected.
Anybody can learn to communicate a well-organized, predictable message with a thoughtful opening, body and conclusion. Guess what? Your message can still be forgotten. In fact, research has suggested that up to 80 percent of the average dialogue will be forgotten within 24 hours. Busy professionals suffer from information overload every day. If you want to become a communicator who commands interest and respect, you have to be unforgettable. Strive to make your listener feel your message, not just hear it. How? Don't be afraid to be vulnerable and openly share a personal story. Paint a picture with your words. Engage your listeners through interaction requiring them to move, talk or participate in the dialogue. Ask your audience to make a decision, or solicit feedback that requires a thoughtful response or healthy debate. If you can do this every time, you will be remembered and admired.
6. Don't close your mind to a new way of doing things.
Throw away the "way it's always been done" or the "only way you've ever known" and open yourself up to improving who you are. People who can do this are refreshing and sought after. Those who don't are stale and avoided.
Regardless of your age, gender, education or years of experience, taking the steps to become a confident communicator will put you far beyond those who are not, every time.
Elizabeth P. Cipolla is a business communications professional specializing in the areas of leadership training, creative recruitment strategies, professional development and executive coaching for more than 13 years. She brings leadership experience from various industries including marketing, mass media, apparel, education, manufacturing, nonprofit agencies and insurance. To contact Elizabeth, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.changeagentsee.com.