Posts

Jayne Latz

Confident Communication

In a professional setting, projecting confidence can make or break an interaction and have a significant impact on how others perceive your character and professional abilities. Those who appear confident are often assumed to be more capable in their jobs and more worthy of trust and respect.

Your communication style can play a significant role in projecting confidence. Changing the way you speak is one of the first and most important steps in achieving an air of confidence and success. Your tone of voice, rate of speech, and other non-verbal cues often say more about your message than your words themselves. Subtle changes in your voice and presentation create a significant difference in how your message is received.

One key aspect of speech that can be modified to project confidence is how quickly you speak. Many people, when nervous or excited, tend to speak too quickly. Rushing through your words not only makes it difficult for others to understand you, but also makes it seem as though you are nervous and trying to get speaking over with as quickly as possible. Be aware of this pitfall, and concentrate on using a controlled, even rate of speech. This will help you to appear confident and knowledgeable about the topic on which you’re speaking and give your listener the impression that what you have to say is worth taking the time to listen to.

Intonation can also play a role in projecting confidence. One intonation pattern that can be particularly damaging is upspeak or high-rising intonation. Upspeak, made famous by the 1980s “Valley girl” accent, is characterized by raising your pitch at the end of a sentence so that statements sound like questions. This pattern gives off an air of insecurity and makes it seem that you are unsure of yourself and seeking your listener’s approval. Take care to avoid this pattern, and end each sentence authoritatively.

Another speech habit that can be fatal to projecting confidence is the use of ‘filler’ words. People often pepper their speech with words such as “um”, “uh”, “like” or “you know” which contain no content, add nothing to the message, and interrupt the flow of speech. For example, many people find themselves in the habit of ending sentences with, question words like “okay?” “right?” “see?” or “you know what I mean?” Others use “um” at the beginning of sentences or when transitioning from one thought to another. In order to reduce your reliance on filler words, try identifying where you most commonly use fillers, and briefly pause instead. Many people avoid pauses because they are uncomfortable with silence, but a brief pause will give you a moment to collect your thoughts, allow your listeners to absorb your message, and will sound much more confident and professional than needless fillers.

Finally, take note of your volume when speaking. A strong, well-projected voice makes you sound authoritative and like a natural leader. While you don’t want to shout, speaking with a strong volume gives others the impression that you are saying something worth listening to. Speaking too quietly can make it seem as though you’re not fully sure of what it is you’re saying, or that you don’t feel it’s really important.

Strong professional communication skills are critical to projecting confidence and achieving success in the workplace. By following the strategies above, you can change your communication style to one that tells clients and colleagues that you are a confident leader with a message worth listening too. If you’d like to make more significant changes in your communication style, you may want to enlist the help of a corporate speech-language pathologist who can provide communication training to target your specific needs. Learn to communicate with clarity and confidence, and take your career to the next level!


About the Author

Jayne LatzJayne Latz is an expert in communication and CEO of Corporate Speech Solutions, LLC. She has worked as a speech trainer, coach, professional speaker, and has co-authored two books titled, Talking Business: A Guide to Professional Communication and Talking Business: When English is Your Second Language. She was recently featured in The Wall Street Journal and on The TODAY Show.

If you are interested in learning more ways to improve your business communication skills, contact Jayne at [email protected] or visit www.corporatespeechsolutions.com.

What Does Your Voice Say About You?

Unless there is an obvious problem, most of us don’t give more than an occasional passing thought to how our voice sounds. However, recent research on how vocal quality affects others’ perceptions may make you think twice.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal discusses a study that shows that the quality of your voice has an even stronger impact on how you are perceived than the content of your message. As listeners provided feedback on speakers, it was found that their vocal quality mattered twice as much as the content of the message. The article cites another study as well, which showed that people who heard recordings of rough, weak, strained or breathy voices judged the speakers to be negative, weak, passive or tense. On the other hand, speakers with ‘normal’ voices are seen as successful, sexy, sociable and smart. This difference in perception can be particularly important in a professional environment where the way others perceive you can make the difference between gaining or losing a client or moving up the corporate ladder. A study in Forbes magazine even showed how poor vocal quality can actually cost you money in the long run.

One of the key components to a strong, dynamic voice is breath support. Your breath is the power behind your voice. If you aren’t breathing properly and getting enough air, you will strain your voice trying to be heard. Often people try to compensate for poor breath support by using muscular tension to increase volume. Over time, this will cause your vocal quality to suffer, and may cause physical damage to your vocal cords. Proper breath support begins with breathing from the abdomen, not the chest: your stomach and lower ribcage should expand outwards as you breathe, and your chest should not rise. If you have trouble mastering this technique, lay on your back with your hand on your stomach and take a deep, relaxing breath as though you were about to go to sleep. When in this position, our body naturally reverts to proper breathing. After you’ve gotten used to how this type of breathing feels, stand up and take a few deep breaths, maintaining the technique. Then, practice speaking aloud with this type of breathing.

You can also improve your vocal quality by eliminating habits that are damaging to your vocal cords. One common vocal sin is not drinking enough water. Parched vocal cords can be easily damaged and decrease the quality of your voice. Keep a bottle of water with you throughout the workday, especially situations in which you’ll be speaking for a long time or in front of a group of people. Also, be aware of other factors that can be dehydrating. Caffeine and alcohol are both dehydrating substances; if possible, limit your consumption of both prior to speaking in public. Some medications, such as antihistamines, can also have a drying effect.

Another bad habit is raising your voice to speak above noise. While there are certainly situations that call for more vocal power, consistently raising your voice above its natural volume can be damaging. Before shouting, make your first line of defense modifying the environment instead. Step out of a noisy room, shut the door, or walk closer to someone who is standing far away. If you are giving a presentation, use a microphone instead of trying to shout to the back of the room.

A powerful, dynamic voice is critical to professional success in today’s competitive workplace. Luckily you can change the way you sound! Follow the strategies above for a strong commanding voice. If you’d like to make more significant changes in your general vocal quality, you may want to enlist the help of a corporate speech-language pathologist who can provide vocal training to target your specific needs.

Remember: it doesn’t matter how strong your professional skills are if your listener is distracted by your voice or communication style. But with a little time and effort, you can make your communication skills your most powerful professional tool!


About the Author

Jayne LatzJayne Latz is an expert in communication and CEO of Corporate Speech Solutions, LLC. She has worked as a speech trainer, coach, professional speaker, and has co-authored two books titled, Talking Business: A Guide to Professional Communication and Talking Business: When English is Your Second Language. She was recently featured in The Wall Street Journal and on The TODAY Show.

If you are interested in learning more ways to improve your business communication skills, contact Jayne at [email protected] or visit www.corporatespeechsolutions.com.