Think about how many times you’ve listened to someone’s voicemail message on your phone and had to replay it over several of times. What was it that the person was saying that you couldn’t figure out? Now, reverse that situation and ask yourself are you that person to others? Speech is very important and sadly it is an absent art form amongst today’s society. You can use the digital era we live in as a scapegoat, but honestly it could be people just aren’t caring enough to speak clearly.
Communication skills are vital. It can be the defining factor for you getting the job you want, or better yet keeping the one you have. One study shows how poor communication between employees costed company millions of dollars. Why do people speak as if their mouth is filled with cotton balls or marbles? I don’t know, but I too find myself stumbling over my words periodically, but with some research I decided to practice the few tips below from 20 year veteran speech pathologist and president of Corporate Speech Solutions, Jane Latz, on how to be a better and more effective communicator:
- Learn to listen. Listening skills are critical. Be sure to pay attention when you are receiving information about a potential job. Give your full attention to the person who is speaking. You may need to recall the information a few minutes later in order to ask intelligent questions based on what was said.
- Stay focused. Sit up straight and look directly at the speaker if in person or in a mirror if on the phone. Now and then nod to let the speaker know you are actively listening. Be sure to let the speaker finish what they are saying. When you interrupt, it appears as if you are not.
- Slow down your rate of speech. Simply slowing down your rate will significantly improve your speech quality. The average rate per minute varies from about 130-150 words.
- Finish your words. Remember hearing the saying, “Don’t swallow your words”? People are in such a hurry to complete a task at hand that they forget to finish their words. Old becomes ol’; fishing becomes fishin’; business becomes busin’, etc. In the course of a conversation, this doesn’t just cause “sloppy speech,” it forces the listener to work harder to understand you. In business, people don’t want to work harder. They want to get the information and move to the next item. Learn to finish your words.
- Learn to speak clearly and effectively on the telephone. Today, most of our daily business is conducted over the telephone. Often we have meetings with multiple people on the telephone. There are many high-frequency sounds that can be lost if you do not learn to speak clearly your message can be misinterpreted.
Speaking clearly takes practice, but it is an integral part of effective business communication.