When asked the most important skills in raising children, not many mothers would list communication. However, a large part of every mom’s day involves trying to be an effective communicator. We issue instructions, offer support, negotiate deals, give feedback, share bad news, solicit specifications and request ongoing updates.
This on-the-job schooling is the perfect training for the business world. However, once back in their professional setting, many women forget to speak up. Doubts creep in, and they hold their tongues, keep their thoughts to themselves, tolerate interrupters, and let their expertise and opinions go unheard.
Studies show that strong communication skills are twice as important as good managerial skills. Ask most managers what they are looking for in a team member, and strong speaking and communications skills will top the list.
By developing these skills, you are empowered to speak up, grow your career, bring about change and inspire others.
Top tips to get started:
Top Two Mindset Tips.
- Reframe “fear.” Clients claim they won’t speak up due to fear. Yet, every day we do things that scare us, but it doesn’t stop us from doing them. We raise children—what could be scarier? I reframe their thinking and point out that what they are experiencing is not fear but excitement. Tell yourself those sensations you’re experiencing (heart racing, cheeks flushed) are your body preparing you for something exciting—just as you would feel before you went bungee jumping. You are excited to speak up because you know this topic and are eager to share your knowledge with your teammates.
- Trust your listeners. Many clients tell me they won’t speak up because they think others will be critical of what they say and that their colleagues are ready to judge them. This is not true. Most people listen with an open heart. They pay attention, hoping that the speaker will contribute something of value. They want you to succeed because then you have made their time worthwhile. Do you buy a movie ticket and think, I hope this movie is horrible? Do you attend a meeting and think, I really hope this is a complete waste of an hour? Your fellow workers come in with open hearts. They are your biggest champions. Trust they are open to listening to you. They will sense this trust, and you can start to build that communication bridge.
Top Two Verbal Tips:
- Slow down: Speaking too fast can hurt your message so if you do nothing else to improve your communication skills, practice slowing down. By slowing your pacing, (the rate at which you speak), you allow yourself time to organize your thoughts. This reduces the use of crutch words (um, ah, you know, I mean), prevents brain freeze, and improves diction.
- Breathe: always pause and take a breath before speaking up. This lowers your stress, opens up your vocal cords, and improves your tone. Concentrate on taking deep breaths while you speak. It will prevent a breathy voice (which comes across as weak and lacking confidence), and it will aid projection.
Top Two Virtual Tips:
- Height: position the lens of your video camera at eye height. If you are using the camera on your laptop, raise it so that you are not looking down at your colleagues. Try to get as close to a natural eye-to-eye angle as possible.
- Light: ensure there is a decent amount of light on your face. Listeners use facial expressions to help them understand a message. Faces in shadows obscure these micro-facial expressions.
As you re-establish yourself in the workplace, remind yourself that your voice is worthy of being heard and that your knowledge and ideas have value. If you managed decades of discussions with toddlers and teens, colleagues are easy.
Now is the time to speak up!