How can I communicate with more self-confidence?
How can I gain confidence in my communication skills?
Many people lack confidence in their ability to communicate.
For example, John lacks confidence, especially when talking to others who he regards as more important than himself, or in situations that are more formal.
If John is talking to his friends informally, then he is vocal and confident. But if you ask John to make a speech at a wedding, or if you asked john to make a presentation to the board of directors, then John's confidence would crumble and he would become a quivering mass of nerves. He would become almost incapable of coherent speech.
This situation is common. Many people lack self confidence in their ability to communicate when in formal situations or in the company of important people.
How can you improve your confident communication skills?
We can approach this issue of confident communication, in two ways.
- To do things that will actively increase your confidence as a communicator.
- To stop doing things that decrease your confidence as a communicator.
You need to build yourself up and simultaneously STOP tearing yourself down.
Let us take each set in turn.
How to build up your confidence as a communicator.
1. Speak only when you have something specific to say
Don't speak unless you have something good to say.
Remember that a wise person speaks because he has something good to say. A fool speaks because he feels good by saying something.
Many people feel that they are obligated to speak in order to avoid, what they call, an awkward silence.
So, they speak without having anything meaningful to say. This results in the person talking vacuously.
One of the arts we recommend you develop is the art of being comfortable with silence.
Don't panic and think you have to be speaking non-stop.
If you have nothing good to say, stop talking.
Don't talk for the sake of filling-in awkward silences.
2. Prepare your message
If you have an important meeting, then prepare your message. This does not mean; "Memorise a speech".
Prepare your message simply means; "Identify the points you wish to make, prepare your reasons for making each point, and put the points (together with their reasons), in the proper order, point 1; point 2; point 3 etc.."
Don't try to memorise a script, word for word. Doing that overloads the memory and makes things worse.
Instead, memorise the ideas, the reasons for them, and the order of presentation.
Then let yourself talk spontaneously, finding the words, in the moment, to express your prepared sequence of ideas.
- Warning: failure to prepare will cause you to lose your confidence.
Part 2: Do things that will stop you from undercutting your own self confidence as a communicator.
It is important not to tear-down your own confidence.
Here is how people tear down their own confidence.
1. Imagining the listeners to be Godlike supermen
It is common for people to psych themselves out by overestimating their listeners.
Simon says, "I am okay talking to my mates, but when I have to talk to the M.D., or to other important people, my mouth goes dry and I feel like a school boy in front of the headmaster."
This is a common method of self-destruction. To imagine yourself as being like a child, and the listeners as being like Superman.
The way to overcome this is to; focus on your message.
Don't focus your attention on yourself.
Focus your attention on your prepared message.
The more you wonder if you are messing it up, the more you will mess it up.
- Don't think about yourself.
- Don't think of the other person's status.
- Don't wonder if he likes you, or not.
Think about your message.
The more you think about your message and the more you don't think about yourself, the less self-conscious you feel. And the more you will appear as self-confident.
Don't say anything that is self-depreciating
Many people who lack self-confidence give themselves away by uttering self-depreciating statements as a prelude to their presentation.
For example, at the commencement of Simon's presentation yesterday, he started with the statement:
"l will do my best. But this probably won't be very good. I'm really nervous........."
He should NOT say things that are obviously self-depreciating. To do so, invites the listeners to downgrade their estimation of Simon, and it causes Simon to increase his feelings of self-doubt.
Instead, Simon should have started with something like this:
"My name is Simon. I am very pleased to have this opportunity to present my ideas to you..................."
This kind of statement is self-assured, respectful and will cause the listeners to keep an open mind to listen to Simons ideas.
Summary of points
In order to keep your confidence as a communicator you need to build yourself up; and simultaneously STOP tearing yourself down.
We recommend that you:
- Develop the ability to be comfortable with saying nothing.
- Don't speak unless you have something good to say.
- Prepare your message. Identify the points you wish to make, prepare your reasons for making each point, and put them all in the proper order.
- Don't try to memorise a script, word for word.
- Don't psych yourself out by overestimating your listeners. Don't make them God like beings.
- Don't utter self-depreciating statements as a prelude to your presentation.
- Instead, focus all your attention on your message and not too much on yourself.
Then you won't feel so self-conscious.
Then you will appear to be more confident.
Then you will be happy.