There is a long list of attributes I admire in people. Being well spoken is up there in my top ten. I marvel at speakers who can express their thoughts and ideas clearly and in a way people understand exactly what they are trying to say. I aspire to be one of them. But how do we become more articulate in everyday speech?
A while back I received an email with a short blog post – Speak With Purpose, Not Impulse. Busy with other things, I put it aside for later reading. When I did sit down with it the other day, I discovered it was an invitation to sign up for a 7-day course to improve my communication skills. Now that Mr. Smith and I are sliding into retirement, I am trying to be more conscious of what I spend money on so I decided that before ponying up my credit card number, I would check out what was available for free on You Tube and via podcasts. It turns out there is a lot!
After reading and listening to much advice on becoming more articulate, I found there were a few pointers that come up over and over:
- Read! I thought I was a devoted reader, but I will happily commit to reading more!
- Listen to yourself. That’s a scary one, hearing recordings of your own voice. It brings back memories of being filmed during speech class in high school. When the instructor played the tape of my speech for the class, much of the filming was of my leg jittering. No, I wasn’t nervous at all.
- Expand your vocabulary. I am all in on this one. I love words and am always happy to meet a new one, but mainly I want to stop being lazy, defaulting to the same words over and over (very, enjoy, etc.), and use words that are more descriptive, that more accurately express my thoughts and emotions. My fabulous editor suggested investing in a better thesaurus. I was pleased as punch to spring for a copy of The Synonym Finder from Rodale Books, Inc.
- Pause. Strategic pauses are usually much better than filler words. Take a deep breath, give yourself a moment.
I aspire to be one of those people who find the right words in everyday conversation, who are consistently articulate and prepared for a chat. I still remember from over thirty years ago a friend of mine deftly handling a situation, not hurting anyone’s feelings, but not committing to anything she didn’t want to do. My family had been living in a subdivision outside of Atlanta and we were preparing to move to Indiana. While together with a group, my friend mentioned she was planning a goodbye luncheon for me. Another woman spoke up and said, “You should have a potluck.” Now I knew my friend Ann had no intention of having a potluck, but she simply very kindly replied, “I’ll think about that.” There was no potluck and no one’s feeling were hurt.
Words can help and words can hurt. I have had the excruciating experience of instantly realizing I have said the wrong thing. Fortunately, I have also had the rewarding experience of knowing I said the right thing at the right moment. While I know that happens when I take my time, gather myself, and respond thoughtfully and don’t simply react, there are still times I blurt out the first thing that pops into my head. Usually not a good idea.
I am someone who struggles to articulate my thoughts, particularly under pressure. There are times when I know someone is waiting for my response, but my mind is momentarily paralyzed. In the past, this has caused me to feel inadequate. Interestingly, while researching how to be more articulate, I came across an article explaining that what I often experience is normal for introverts. Wow! I knew I am an introvert and apparently, I’m normal!
I am a work in progress. I have not given up. I will not brush eloquence aside as something I cannot achieve. I am armed with many tools, including my new hefty thesaurus! It may take me a little time to assimilate new techniques into everyday natural responses, but I am going to try.
What traits do you admire in other people? Do you have a quality or talent you would like to master? How would you go about mastering something new? Feel free to leave me a comment about what you admire or what you aspire to. I’m listening, say anything…
C’est la vie.