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Technology has enabled us to communicate in a wide variety of ways, but none is more powerful or efficient as actually speaking with one another. While email and chat serve their own purposes, face-to-face and phone meetings are by far the most collaborative, efficient, and bonding communications for all professionals.
Verbal communication is a vital part of nearly every business relationship, and great verbal communicators are extremely valuable in leadership roles.
Working for more than three decades as an entrepreneur and former executive for companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook, Leanse experienced firsthand both the good and bad verbal communication habits of the world’s top business leaders. She noticed that even the common use of certain words can have an enormous effect on the strength of an idea and the relationship between two speakers. One example she has shared is to eliminate the word “just” in our communications. She emphasized that, “As I started really listening, I realized that striking [just] from a phrase almost always clarified and strengthened the message.”
Already having gained success as a leader in business, Nooyi made a concerted effort to improve her verbal communication in order to become more collaborative and influential with her teams at PepsiCo. “You cannot over-invest in communication skills - written and oral communication skills,” Nooyi once said at a women’s leadership conference. Her verbal communication skills led to being one of the most powerful female executives.
As a long-time expert in linguistics and a professor at the University of California, Lakoff is known particularly for her 1975 book, Language and Woman’s Place, which has often been the basis for many debates regarding language and gender. She also introduced the idea of “pragmatic competence,” or being able to communicate in a clear and straightforward way, while still maintaining politeness. She notes that “it is considered more important to avoid offense than to achieve clarity,” but that this way of thinking is often not actually as beneficial as direct and honest, though still polite, communication.
While text-based communications like emails and chats are great for small messages, it’s much more effective to discuss more complex thoughts and ideas verbally. When you communicate verbally, you help add context to abstract ideas.
Verbal communication is the most effective way to both ask for and provide support, training, and feedback with your peers. Effective verbal communication doesn’t just transmit information, but can also help instill trust, confidence, and closeness with those you work with.
The reason ideas are often spread by “word of mouth” is because it’s one of the most frictionless ways to share ideas. Verbal communication fosters connection and trust, which creates the perfect setting for ideas to be formed and shared.
The longer you speak, the more watered down your message becomes. The most effective communicators say enough to completely support their point, and very little otherwise. Often, the most concise explanation may also be the most clear.
Verbal communication should never be used to purposely harm someone else. Whether you’re criticising someone directly or behind their back, malicious speech will lead to negativity and disconnection between your peers. Such teams are less efficient, and less happy in their work.
Verbal communication is not about power or dominance. While it may be prudent at times to be sharp or terse, the way you speak should always be reinforced with a clear feeling of support, connection, and empathy.
We often say “um,” “ah,” and “like,” when our brains need to catch up to our mouths. Reduce that gap by slowing down your speaking pace. Work on becoming more comfortable with brief silence - don’t rush to fill the pauses.
Each interaction is made up of not only what you communicate but how you communicate it. Never lead with an apology or any type of excuse. Start your communication with a strong, confident “I” statement backed up with evidence in support of the validity of your ideas or opinions.
Use the first 60 seconds of a conversation to ensure you are communicating effectively. Like a story, your communication should be made up with an introduction, middle, and ending. Make sure the purpose of the communication is clear (e.g., to provide information, get feedback, determine next steps, etc.)
Your pace of speech determines how people evaluate the intent, meaning, impact, and credibility of your words. A fast pace signals nervousness, so avoid this. Think of your speaking pace like keeping time in music. Experts recommend between 110-150 words per minute (wpm).
In order to effectively communicate, you need to have a passion for the subject. If the subject cannot exhilarate you, chances are that it will not excite your audience. Passion elicits emotions that flow naturally. Emotions move an audience and effectively convey the message.
Eight seconds is all it takes to lose someone’s attention. Think about what you want to communicate in advance and don’t use more words than you need. While you don’t need to figure out what you want to say word for word, figuring out the basic content in advance will help you streamline your message.