Communication is ingrained in every facet of life, yet many struggle with fear, insecurity and general ineffectiveness when finding themselves eye-to-eye with someone and presenting ideas, resolving complicated issues, express feelings, or “selling themselves.”
According to Megan Rokosh, a global business communications expert with more than 12 years of agency public relations, media, and creative strategy experience, “Some people are paralyzed with fear at the very thought of taking an idea and communicating it, both in the workplace and their everyday life. However, confidence can be significantly bolstered by heeding even a few simple strategies — some fundamentals and essentials — that can improve one’s poise and self-assurance.”
Here are three of Rokosh’s confidence-building communications secrets:
1. Craft Situation Diffusion Dialogue
Create an assortment of “go-to” statements you have at-the-ready — to handle awkward or hard situations and moments. These are assertions and declarations that you know work well and that you can whip out quickly when needed. For example, if you are late to a social outing, rehearse the phrase, “I’m so sorry I kept you waiting, my rule is that when I’m late, all the drinks are on me.” Or, when you’re at a loss for words, you can say, “I could have sworn that I packed my tongue today,” and lighten the moment. Having these short statements up your sleeve can help avoid those stumbling moments in awkward moments.
2. Give in to Vulnerability
Vulnerability often equals likability, and they are indelibly connected — so use this truth to your benefit. There’s nothing more off-putting than arrogance, and seeming vulnerable can make you more relatable. If you’re nervous and kicking off a meeting, tell your audience to “be gentle with you” and have a quick laugh to loosen everyone up (and yourself). Self-effacing humor can be a powerful tool. Or, if you’re having a difficult time understanding something, say, “Sorry if I’m holding things up here, but can you explain one more time?” Your contrition will endear.
3. Address Adversities Head-on
You will undoubtedly face times at work and home that require you to confront something difficult. Although challenging, the situation must be addressed to be effectively resolved. Great leaders always speak up, and you should, too! Make clear from the beginning that you intend to hear and consider the other person’s side. Say something like, “Your perspective is valid, and I want to hear what you have to say, but first, please allow me to share my thoughts.” This will give you the floor, hopefully uninterrupted, since the other party has been given the assurance they’ll have a chance to present their side as well. It goes without saying that this discourse should be in-person, versus text or email. There are times when a call or in-person meeting or video call is the right approach — where words, inflections, and expressions become more impactful and meaningful.
Rokosh also reminds us that the world’s best communicators are trained that way. “It’s rare that the communicators we admire haven’t put in extensive work toward their oration skills. It allows them to speak eloquently, pause in powerful silence when appropriate, and address tough media questions,” she notes. “It’s important to remember that, while some people are inherently talented communicators, for many (if not most) becoming a confident communicator requires learned skills. It’s a simple strategy such as this, and proactively putting it to use, that will get you to where you want to be.”
If effective communicating is an area of insecurity for you, and you find yourself being held back by fear, try these three easy tips and feel more resilient and controlled — or, at least, exude the image that you are.