Verbal Communication is one of Matter’s top skills linked to performance and career success. Matter helps professionals tease out blindspots and areas for growth in skills like verbal communication through regular peer-to-peer feedback.
Definition of Verbal Communication: Speaks effectively using appropriate vocal tone, speed, volume, and vocabulary.
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.
Indra Nooyi: 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.
Ellen Petry Leanse: 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.”
Robin Lakoff: 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.
Avoiding filler words like “um”: 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.
Being confident: 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.
Framing conversations: 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.)
Pacing your speech: 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).
Speaking passionately: 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.
Sticking to your point: 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.
Using humor: The clever and appropriate use of humor is a great way to improve communication, reduce stress, build stronger relationships, and alleviate boredom. Avoid humor that puts others down, complains, or is unprofessional - no insults, profanity, arrogance, or inappropriate references.
Using storytelling: Who doesn’t enjoy a great story? Research has shown that people’s beliefs can be swayed more effectively through storytelling than through logical arguments. Persuasion is most effective when people are “transported” to another place using a story.
Who can benefit from practicing verbal communication? Matter is helping professionals at all levels get actionable feedback to improve their verbal communication.
Verbal Communication shouldn’t be practiced in a vacuum. Improve your verbal communication by exploring and developing these complementary skills.