How to Speak Clearly and Be Understood
Be understood in the work place so that your message doesn't need to be repeated. These eight common sense tips are good reminders of how to communicate clearly and effectively.
Copyright (c) 2009 Lynda Stucky
"Huh?" "What did you say?" "Excuse me?" Who wants to hear that after you've just explained the important new procedure the department has just adopted. Misunderstandings are inevitable but do we always look for the source of misunderstandings? Sometimes it's the listener but there are strategies the speaker can use to improve, too.
Here are eight strategies to help you next time you find yourself misunderstood.
1. Repeat what you said especially the most important parts. Make sure your intonation and stress were appropriate on the correct words. This may be particularly important to people who speak English as a second language. If the wrong stress is placed on the wrong syllable, it changes the word completely.
2. Slow down your rate of speech. Are you fast talker? If you are, you may be losing the most important person in the room: the listener! A good rate of speech ranges between 140 -160 words per minute.
3. Pronounce the endings of words. Most of us can figure out the endings of words when the final consonant is omitted. However, if eliminating endings is an issue you have in your speech, your listener may be distracted by it and find it difficult to concentrate on your message.
4. Over exaggerate your mouth opening while speaking. Observe TV personalities (newscasters, actresses). Their mouths open widely as they speak to the point of being able to see their teeth. Stand in front of the mirror and watch yourself as you speak. Are your teeth visible? It is possible to speak with good diction if the mouth is opened widely.
5. Use correct grammar and appropriate vocabulary. Using poor grammar is a distraction! Subject/verb agreement, double negatives, or using words that aren't even words (e.g. irregardless) are common mistakes. Vocabulary that is either too difficult or too simple may also send the wrong message.
6. Getting louder may be necessary if it is obvious that the person with whom you are speaking can't hear well. For some reason, we often assume that if someone didn't understand, maybe if we speak louder, he/she will hear us. You may observe the listener cupping a hand to the ear or even see a hearing device, and in that case, speaking louder is essential.
7. Make sure the person is looking at you when you speak and not distracted by email, cell phone, etc.
8. Use other words to explain something. Small changes like substituting a different word or phrase can have a big impact on the message's meaning. Other times, the message may need to be explained by changing a sentence. Sometimes too, it is very clear in our own minds what we are trying to say but we assume that the listener knows what we are thinking. There is a fine line between giving too much information and not giving enough.
Create an environment that gives every advantage to the listener without talking down to him or her. You will gain respect, enjoy conversations that are understandable and open the door for clear communication in your relationships!
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If you need assistance identifying or eliminating a vocally abusive behavior, seek help from a professional!