Humans are a social species and as such, communicating with others is inevitable no matter how introverted (or not!) you might feel. But have you ever stopped to consider how your communication style might be affecting your professional life, and whether or not it’s holding you back from achieving the growth opportunities you deserve?
To dive deeper into this topic, we spoke with communication coach and expert, Sahar Mandi of Sahar L. Mandi Consulting, who firmly believes:
If you want to take your career to the next level, you need to stand out. And in order to stand out, you have to speak up.
Makes sense, right? Because in today’s highly saturated and competitive environment, merely “doing good” is no longer enough. Aside from completing your day-to-day tasks, you also need to be able to clearly articulate your thoughts, ideas, and overall worth in any professional setting you find yourself in, so that your managers, clients, and all other external stakeholders know just what a rock star you really are.
But this might be easier said than done, with public speaking routinely described as one of people’s greatest fears, beating out the fear of heights, flying, and even death! Not to mention the prevalence of mansplaining and manterruption in the workplace, which multiple research studies have confirmed to be real and true.
So what are we – smart, ambitious, driven women professionals – to do?
According to Mandi, confident and effective communication is a skill that anyone can master, and here are her top three tips on how:
Communication Tip #1: Ditch Your Old Speaking Patterns
If you want your managers and colleagues to take you seriously and treat you with respect, you have to take you seriously and treat you with respect first!
Pay attention to how you’re talking to and about yourself because that directly impacts the way others perceive you too.
Instead of caveating your thoughts with “I guess”, “I suppose”, “I think”, “I may be mistaken, but…”, or “correct me if I’m wrong”, use empowering phrases such “in my experience, I’ve found…” , “based on the research, I’ve concluded…” , “in the past, we’ve taken the following approach to get this result…”
Additionally, stop downplaying your own value with words like “just”, “only”, or “little.” As in, “I’m just a junior analyst,” “I’ve only been here a few months,” or “I have a little idea to share.” They do nothing more than erode your confidence and you’re better off deleting these words (in this belittling context) from your vocabulary entirely; “you are a junior analyst,” “you have been here a few months,” “you have an idea to share.”
Communication Tip #2: Spread Your Wings to Fly
Have you heard of the 7% rule? It states that communication is only 7% verbal and 93% non-verbal, with body language making up 55% of that non-verbal communication. So what you’re doing with your body, even when you’re not talking, can speak volumes – and it’s in your best interest to make sure the story it’s telling is a good one!
A great rule of thumb to remember is to make yourself big.
What does that mean when you don’t have the floor? Sit or stand tall, with your shoulders back and your hands comfortably resting on the table or to your sides.
What does that mean when you are presenting? Use big gestures. Nervous speakers often try to literally hide from the audience by making themselves small and keeping their gestures tightly to themselves. This makes their movements appear contrived and unnatural, further highlighting their anxiety.
To counteract this natural tendency to retreat and protect, try planting your feet firmly in the ground and gesturing beyond your shoulders. Though this might seem unnatural at first, the very act of taking up more space will make you feel more powerful and confident in return, resulting in a killer presentation.
Communication Tip #3: Perfect Your Talking Points
Though we’ve established that only 7% of communication is through our words, we can all agree that without words, we’d be hard-pressed to relay any kind of meaningful message, correct?
So, your talking points are just as important in making you an amazing communicator, and you should always aim to make your presentation as clear and memorable for the audience as possible.
The formula Mandi coaches her clients through is as follows:
- Start with the WHAT – what is it that you’re discussing?
- Fill the Middle with the SO WHAT – why is what you’re discussing important and what’s the relevance to your audience?
- End with the NOW WHAT – what are the next steps you want your audience to take or do?
This easy-to-follow sequence will not only help you remember what you want to say better, it will help your audience better remember your main points too. Win/win!
Taken together, these three tips will have you well on your way to becoming a better communicator. But, if you want to skyrocket your path to the top of the org chart, Mandi offers an entirely digital self-study curriculum that dives deeper into every aspect of communication in six short weeks. Click here to learn more. Or, if workshops & webinars are more your thing, sing up here to be on the exclusive list for all her upcoming public speaking & communication events.