The ability to “talk the talk”—that is, to say the right things at the right time is, no doubt, a priceless skill. It’s also a brilliant gift—one that can inspire, touch the hearts of others, and make us stand out from the crowd.
Eloquence is true gem—it has many proven benefits, but the greatest thing about it is that it can be learned and mastered. The more we do it, the better we become.
It also matters greatly because a major way in which we can leave a mark on others is, of course, by being able to speak clearly and with confidence. But it all goes beyond the ability to have a small chat with all stripes of people or to become a good public speaker.
The talent to talk and connect to others is often the barometer of how much we (and our brand) are worth to ourselves and respectively—to the world. It reveals our confidence level and how well we can market ourselves.
So how do we get to this highly-desirable position?
Scientists have long studied the topic too—and some of the advice they’ve been giving us is more intuitive than other. But they are unanimous about one thing: The art of having a great conversation and of speaking with confidence are skills that can and should be explored by everyone—be it to build confidence, to expand your network, to promote your brand, to make more friends, to make a point, or to have your voice heard.
There are few things that each can do to become a more seasoned speaker and to keep others interested and engaged.
Expertise and Authority
The “most natural” way to project confidence when we speak is when it’s done from the position of authority or as an expert. We all tend to pay close attention to such individuals and believe pretty much everything that they say. Because they “know their stuff.”
So, find your strengths and passions, and further develop them—become the best you can at what you do.
This will certainly gain us lots of brownie points with others—mainly, in the form of respect and appreciation. But “knowing our stuff” will also breed confidence—as it makes us better armed to face the world, to weather adversities, and to calm down our nervousness and self-doubting.
Pausing, Emphasis and Fillers
It’s barely a secret that speaking too fast is a sign of anxiety. Combine this with the use of multiple fillers as “uhm,” “you know” or “like,” and you’ve just lost large part of your credibility.
We often do it, though, when we fear we might get interrupted or objected to, and want to leave the other party no time to do so.
But unless we are aiming at breaking the fast-speaking Guinness World record, rushing through thoughts and words will serve as an instant underminer of authority, as others will have a hard time following us.
Therefore, speak slower, make sure that you have a good idea about the message you want to relay, and if you need time to think, simply pause for a moment. No more “uhms.” Emphasis on certain words will also help to get across a message with more clarity. People tend to remember more when something is accentuated with a special intonation, a pause, etc.
The power of words
Rudyard Kipling once said: “Words, of course, are the most powerful drug known to mankind. Not only do words infect, egotize, narcotize, and paralyze, but they enter into and colour the minutest cells of the brain ….”
Marketing gurus also tell us that not all words are equal. Some are more powerful and influential than others, and can make us come across as more confident. For instance, research has found that using words as: Now, You, Results, Proven, Instantly or New, among few others, can have a greater impact and help influence people.
Interestingly, the most dangerous word in the world is no other than…”NO,” and its variations (can’t, won’t, don’t, etc.). It makes others perceive us in an unfavorable way and as someone who is not assertive enough.
So, be very wary of the language you use when you speak. Avoid using words which can provoke adverse reactions. For instance, instead of “I’ve failed” you can say “I still haven’t succeeded,” or use “I’ll take this away and find out,” rather than “I don’t know or I’m not sure.” It makes a tremendous difference.
The Power of Priming
There is a much-buzzed about study by John Bargh, a professor of social psychology at Yale University on the power of priming. In his experiment from 1996, he asked a group of participants to read a series of scrambled words, such as “Florida,” “oranges,” “old,” and “wrinkle.” After that, part-takers were asked to walk to a close-by elevator. Those who were primed with “elderly” words walked about 20% slower than the ones who were primed with neutral words.
The lesson from the above story is that the ability to speak clearly and confidently is largely a mind game—that is, if you believe in yourself and trust that you are or can be self-assured, this is the image you will project to the world.
Often, our perceptions of ourselves find further expression in our non-verbal connection with the world—through our gestures, postures, eye contact, or the words we use.
Simply put, how we feel on the inside and what we believe to be true about our personalities—for instance, confident vs. insecure person, a good speaker vs. a bad one—is the main determinant of whether and how well we can master and exhibit these skills and qualities.
And finally, we should remember that, frequently, the main ingredient we are missing— to be able to connect effectively, to influence others and to speak with authority— is simply to give ourselves a little bit more of self-love and self-encouragement, as these can do wonders for our confidence and for the many esteem-linked aspects of our lives.
So, along the journey of becoming better at having our voice heard—or at anything else for this matter— we shouldn’t forget to give ourselves a tap on the shoulder.
Simply put—to get ahead, we need to first become our biggest fans.