Author: Jackie Miller

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Why emotional intelligence is key to personal and professional success.

Why emotional intelligence is key to personal and professional success.

Emotional Intelligence (also known as EQ or EI) is a highly valued business communication skill.  How can you assess and increase your own EQ?

Daniel Goleman’s 1996 groundbreaking book, Emotional Intelligence Why It Can Matter More Than IQ takes a comprehensive look at why some people with exceptionally high IQs are unable to attain success in their personal and professional lives.  Goleman and his co-authors posit that in order to truly excel, a person needs not only book smarts but emotional smarts as well. 

Many following the job market acknowledge that candidates with strong emotional intelligence are more attractive hires.  People with high emotional intelligence make better leaders, better managers, and better colleagues. For a comprehensive deep-dive into the topic check out, “EQ and the Future of Work,” by Advance Systems.

“Today companies worldwide routinely look through the lens of EI in hiring, promoting, and developing their employees.”-Daniel Goleman

So what is EQ and how do I know if I have it?

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to achieve our goals through recognizing our emotions and the emotions of others. This is in order to guide our behavior and adapt to our environment.  Interested in formally assessing your EQ?  There are several tests available online (some charge a fee). Check out Psychology Today, Greater Good Magazine (published by UC Berkeley), and Yale University.  

A healthy dose of self-reflection is also an effective way to rate your EQ abilities.

Assess your emotional self-awareness.  How good are you at acknowledging how you’re really feeling?  The pressure to project outwardly that everything is fine can often lead to bottling our true emotions.

Admit whether emotions stemming from one particular situation are influencing exchanges with others in your life.   Could the disagreement you had with your boyfriend on the way out the door this morning be the real reason you were short with your colleague during morning staff meeting?

Acknowledge your ability to be socially aware.  When you walk into a room can you sense the ‘vibe’?  Think beyond walking into a library or movie theater and automatically lowering your voice so as not to disturb others.  It necessitates taking a look around the room to assess people’s emotional state of mind.  Are they relaxed or tense?  Happy or anxious?

Understand your ability to employ empathy. There is distinct (and important) difference between showing someone empathy vs. sympathy.  It boils down to how well you are able to truly understand how you would feel and act if posed with the same circumstances as someone else.

How can I strengthen my EQ skills?

Identify a recurring interaction you have at work.  Such as weekly supervision with someone who reports to you or your team check-in.  Observe those you’re meeting with closely.  Note any physical cues they are giving off.  Is their body language closed or open?  Is their energy calm and focused?  Or disjointed and erratic?  Based on what you intuit adjust your actions accordingly.  If they seem frazzled ask them if they need to take a moment before beginning in order to focus themselves.  

It’s also worth checking to if your company offers reimbursement for professional development.  You may be pleasantly surprised to find there are resources at your disposal you didn’t know about.  Hiring a communication coach or taking a class to hone your EQ skills is a great investment in skills that will serve you in all aspects of your life, personally and professionally.

Finally, I love from Roots of Action: “Emotional intelligence is not the opposite of intelligence. It is not the triumph of heart over head.  It is the unique intersection of both.”

A woman struggling with being interrupted at work? Handle it with these tips.

A woman struggling with being interrupted at work? Handle it with these tips.

If you find yourself being interrupted by your male counterparts at work here are a few active tips to help your voice be heard.

Last week’s NYT article about, “The universal phenomenon of men interrupting women” really hit home.  We hear from many of our female clients that they struggle to be heard over their male counterparts.  Seeing Senator Kamala Harris battle being interrupted by her colleagues while questioning Jeff Sessions proves no one is immune.  Much ink has been devoted to dissecting why this happens.  Some articles that are worth a read here, here, and here.  So it’s definitely a thing.  That happens a lot.  What can you do?

EMPLOY SHINE THEORY.

Having your idea shot down only to have a male colleague pass it off as their own later in the same meeting = FRUSTRATING.  Also sometimes referred to as “amplification”.  It involves women repeating each other’s ideas during a meeting to help ensure they are heard.  It also can aide in preventing other men from claiming the ideas as their own.  So ladies, circle up before that next staff meeting and strategize in advance!  (For more of a deep dive on Shine Theory take a listen to the interview Leah and I did with Mavenly’s Women, Work + Worth podcast.)

ESTABLISH YOUR BOUNDARY UPFRONT.

Before sharing your comment it can help to articulate your desire (and right) to finish your thought to the entire room.  This will help avoid creating an uncomfortable situation by singling out the culprit in front of everyone else.  This is especially helpful to have in your back pocket if you’re going into a meeting with someone who has interrupted you repeatedly in the past.  Preface offering your idea with a version of the following.  “I’ve been thinking a lot about this particular issue and I ask that you hear out my entire idea before responding.”

ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED.  

Chances are if you are constantly being interrupted you are not facilitating the meeting with the offender(s) in question.  Find a quiet moment to speak confidently with the person who is. Communicate your frustration and ask for their help diffusing any interruptions in the moment.  Sometimes we feel others should inherently understand what we need instead of explicitly asking for it. You may surprised to find your boss or team leader hadn’t even noticed the issue. Oh and people like being asked for their help.

AVOID UPSPEAK & DROPPING THE ENDS OF YOUR SENTENCES.

‘Upspeak’ refers to phrasing a declarative thought as a question.  You’re essentially going up in tone at the end of your sentence when sharing a definitive opinion or idea.  It’s a way we assert ourselves when we want to seem amenable and non-threatening. It’s also a surefire way to detract from your power.  Conversely, dropping your volume at the end of your sentence results in the same effect (and emanates from the same place of self-doubt). Own your voice!  Finish your thought with authority and conviction.

BREATHE.

Being thrown off mid-thought is a deeply nerve wracking experience.  If (or when) it happens take a moment to take a breathe, center yourself, and recalibrate your thoughts.  Dwelling on the fact you were just interrupted throughout the rest of the meeting is a waste of your focus and energy.  Let the moment pass (you’ll effectively deal with it later using the awesome tips you now know about above!) and soldier on. Don’t give your interrupter more power by letting them disrupt your thoughts as well.

Finally, suffering in silence helps no one-least of all you!  Share your challenges with us @bespokenNY.  Or drop us an a line and let us know about your experiences trying out any of the above tips.

Why Finding Comfort in the Discomfort is Key to Confident Public Speaking

Why Finding Comfort in the Discomfort is Key to Confident Public Speaking

The phrase ‘old habits die hard’ exists for a reason. Especially when it comes to confident public speaking.

Making the decision to actively change your communication style can be daunting.  Even so, you’re ready to commit to making a change.  Maybe you’ve reached this point on your own.  Or a subtle suggestion from a colleague or friend that did the trick.  Or a not-so-subtle suggestion from your boss.  Regardless, you’re committed to doing what it takes to achieve your new public speaking style.Yet undoing old habits is difficult.  And changing how you speak when speaking publicly can feel counterintuitive to the way you’ve always known.  

So how can you overcome these uncomfortable sensations? And avoid them derailing you from achieving your communication goal? Acknowledge that different doesn’t equal bad.

A few weeks ago, a quirky client with a goofy sense of humor was preparing for a high-stakes pitch to potential investors. I encouraged her to employ a more direct and confident tone. She expressed concern that delivering her pitch in this manner felt “false”. And what’s more, seemed imprudent. Why would she want to purposely exclude the part of her personality that she found ingratiated her to many people?

After successfully explaining how self-deprecating quips and unrehearsed comic relief could easily backfire(!) we spoke at length about finding comfort in the discomfort.  In other words, communicating differently in order to effectively get what you want may feel like “not being yourself” but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Awkward sure.  But an important indicator that you’re actively working on implementing the change you set out to achieve.

Maybe you are often complimented on your warm and easy-going nature.  Or lauded for your ability to quietly and deeply focus on a task.  Yet these same characteristics that make you ‘you’ may not serve you when public speaking.  And letting go of them can be uncomfortable.

Most detrimental public speaking habits tend to rise to the surface making them easier to identify and correct.  

Some that come immediately to mind: overuse of hand gestures.  Employing unnecessary fillers such as, “like” and “sort of. Formulating a response before the other person has finished sharing their thought. But for many of us, beneath these superficial facets of our communication style live characteristics deeply rooted to our sense of self.  Which can be linked to powerfully potent feelings such as fear and our sense of self-worth.  Examples include the sound of your own voice. Making direct eye contact to invite your audience’s gaze.  The cadence and pace of your speech.  Even something as simple as standing up straight when speaking publicly can trigger feelings of intense vulnerability.

In his recent article for Forbes, “Communicating Effectively In Times of Change,” David Villa shines a light on the importance of a strong sense of self when working to lead external change. “I believe that all great leaders possess an understanding of their own behavior [and an] understanding of their own thoughts and feelings. I feel strongly that the same holds true with internal, self-propelled change as well.

Embracing the sound of your voice as it fills the room, slowing down and giving your audience time to absorb your ideas – can trigger discomfort.  Reminding yourself that this discomfort is not bad but quite the opposite is important.  It’s proof that you are doing the hard work required to replace longstanding bad habits with good ones and are taking control of the impression you want to make.

 

 

Voice of Reason: How to mediate a difficult conversation

Voice of Reason: How to mediate a difficult conversation

Want to mediate a difficult conversation?  Here’s how.

Navigating conflict is never pleasant.  And it can be doubly hard to witness friends or colleagues in the midst of a disagreement that doesn’t directly involve you.  Especially when you find value in both sides of the argument.  This week we offer guidance on how to communicate neutrally and mediate a difficult conversation. Spoiler alert: remaining neutral doesn’t mean you won’t have to communicate your opinion.  Rather, you’ll communicate an opinion devoid of judgement.  Just the facts, ma’am, if you will.

Schedule some QT

I recommend carving out time to talk privately with those involved in the dispute individually.  It’s important to establish that your conversation is a means to an end.  In other words, discourage a confessional or ‘bitch fest’. Instead, frame the conversation as a necessary step on the road to resolution.  It’s important that the person in conflict understands you intend to use the information they share with you in your pursuit to help identify a resolution.

Active listening skills are also crucial. Pay attention. Maintain eye contact.  Do not interrupt.  Visualize what’s being said. When necessary, ask questions in order to better understand their feelings. And what they need to regain their sense of safety and respect.  At the root of almost of every conflict is the feeling that those you’re in conflict with don’t respect your needs or value what’s important to you.

Insert Yourself Into the Equation

Once you have an understanding of each person’s individual experience and what they need in order to move beyond the conflict you’ve reached a powerful juncture. Ask yourself, what is the best way to neutrally convey these feelings on behalf of those involved?  How do those involved need to hear what they have not yet been able to understand or acknowledge? We often impress upon our clients that it’s not what you say but how you say it.

Meet On Neutral Ground

Pick a spot where everyone feels safe.  Maybe it’s your local bar.  A park or coffee shop.  Perhaps the conversation has to happen at work.  Do your best to identify a physical setting that’s private and isn’t the “scene of the crime”.  Maintaining a calm and neutral setting will put those involved in a better position to communicate openly and honestly.  

It’s crucial that everyone arrives with a clear understanding of why they’ve come together.  Is it to reestablish a line of communication?  Reach a compromise?  Retain respect for one another while agreeing to disagree?  Crystallizing the objective ahead of time is a productive way to begin a difficult conversation.

Now You’re Ready to Mediate

Start by thanking everyone for coming together and acknowledge that it’s awkward.  Not shying away from the fact everyone’s uncomfortable will set a precedent for speaking honestly.  State the pre-established communal objective for coming together and ask everyone to verbalize their agreement to it.  There are many studies that have looked at how saying ‘yes’ engenders feelings of goodwill and camaraderie.

Now frame each person’s feelings on their behalf.  Be careful not to ascribe value or judgement. Yet don’t shy away from sharing your assessment of the situation.  Your neutral vantage point is valuable and can guide those involved toward understanding how others are feeling.  

Then give each person the floor one at a time. Discourage yelling which releases adrenaline and cortisol.  This tightens blood vessels and sends blood pressure soaring.  The conversation may become quite uncomfortable but that’s not necessarily bad.  

Hopefully a resolution will be reached yet if it isn’t that doesn’t mean you’ve failed.  Creating a space for people to communicate calmly and honestly is an admirable feat.  Give yourself credit for working to help others communicate effectively and truly be heard.

Could you repeat that? 3 steps to improve communicating with an accent.

Could you repeat that? 3 steps to improve communicating with an accent.

Are you a non-native English speaker navigating an English speaking workplace? Does your accent pose a communication challenge from time to time?

Are you asked to repeat yourself?  Or asked to repeat words containing a particular vowel sound that consistently trips you up?  Being unable to communicate effectively and efficiently can be a nerve-wracking experience.  

What’s more, the American Speech Language Association acknowledges that having difficulty communicating with those around you can lead to avoiding social interaction.  And frustration from having to repeat yourself all the time.  These feelings over time can negatively affect personal and professional relationships as well as job performance.  The tips below are geared to help you avoid shying away from words you’d really like to use (or perhaps must use) when communicating at work that are difficult for you to pronounce.

#1: Identify Potential Trouble-spots In Advance

Speaking in front of an audience, especially when you’re aiming to impress, can be a stressful experience. And this is true for English and non-English speakers alike.  Add in the extra challenge of navigating a workplace presentation in a language that’s not your own and that stress rises to a whole different level.  If you will be speaking from prepared notes the first thing you should do is prepare your talking points using words that best describe what you’re trying to convey.  Don’t compromise the content of your presentation by purposely avoiding words that you don’t like pronouncing – yet.  Once you’ve finalized your content print it out.  Recite your presentation out loud a few times and when you reach a word that you have difficulty with highlight it.  Then, create a separate list containing only the highlighted words you’ve identified that give you trouble.  Print this out too.  Now you’re ready to tackle what’s tripping you up and regain your control.

#2: Break It Down

Now you have your list of words that give you trouble.  Say each word out loud no less than 10 times.  I know this sounds excessive but it’s important.  It will help make the feeling of the word in your mouth more familiar.  It will also increase your ear’s familiarity with the sound of your voice pronouncing it.  Increasing comfort in both of these regards is important .  The last thing you want to be focused on in the middle of your presentation is a word you don’t like pronouncing coming up two sentences away.  You want to be connecting with your audience and communicating with confidence!  

Repeating the word this many times outloud will also provide you the chance to play with speed. Practice saying the word slowly, then fast.  Then purposely over-pronounce and exaggerate each of the vowel and consonant sounds.  If you gain understanding of why it’s difficult for you to pronounce the word you regain some power and control-power you may feel you lack after previous verbal exchanges using this word that were frustrating.

#3:  Get out that smartphone.

Nowadays every smartphone contains a voice memo app. Record yourself reciting the full sentence in which the word appears.  Do the words that occur directly before and/or after the troublesome word influence your pronunciation of it?  Note this if so, and make any necessary adjustments.  Once you’ve done this for each sentence where a highlighted word exists, record yourself giving your entire presentation.  When you listen back to the recording pay close attention.  Are there any moments where you hear hesitation?  Or where you recall losing your sense of control?  Continue practicing until you no longer experience discomfort or lack of assuredness when you reach these moments in your presentation.

Finally, enlist someone you trust – a friend or a colleague – and practice your presentation in front of them.  It’s important that you bridge the gap between practicing alone with your voice recorder to sharing your thoughts with a live audience.  You may notice that the progress you made alludes you at first.  Nerves have a way of doing that.  Be patient and kind with yourself.  Just take a deep breath and try again.  If you are willing to invest the time you will find that over time words that seemed impossible for you to pronounce will have worked their way into your everyday vocabulary and you’ll be using them without a second thought.

There’s no ‘I’ in Team….But Should There Be?

There’s no ‘I’ in Team….But Should There Be?

Does a rising tide really lift all boats?  Ask Bacardi Limited’s C-Suite Team.

Last October S.H.E.Summit took place here in New York City.  It attracted over 200 entrepreneurs dedicated to empowering leaders in pursuit of gender equality in the workplace.  S.H.E. Summit founder Claudia Chan, uses the term “macro-movement” to describe the amalgamation of social movements working as a team to ensure women and men are treated fairly.  Chan’s vision is one where leaders in the workplace use their voices to rise up in the face of gender inequality.  And in doing so lift each other up in the process. 

Claim Your Seat at the Table

The most memorable moment at S.H.E. Summit happened during the panel, “Breaking Barriers in Male Dominated Fields.”  It featured Zara Mirza, Head of Creative Excellence for Bacardi Global Brands and her boss, Michael Dolan, CEO of Bacardi Limited.  Mirza described how a fleeting moment signified one of the most important turning points in her career.  At Mirza’s first meeting with the senior leadership she walked into a large board room.  The room featured a ‘u’ shaped table.  She went directly to the far end to take her seat.  

As the new person (woman) on staff she unconsciously elected to set herself off to the side. She figured she should wait until it felt ‘appropriate’ to insert her voice into the conversation.  She didn’t want to seem pushy or presumptuous to her new colleagues.  However, no sooner had she taken her seat when Dolan’s assistant came over and whispered in her ear she was to sit next to him at the top of the ‘u’. To paraphrase Mirza’s retelling of this moment, “Michael opened the door for me but I f**king walked through it and I’ve never looked back.”

The Power of Choice

Dolan is creating a space in which Mirza feels her voice is wanted, desired.  In turn she’s empowered to realize her full potential and he sets a precedent other male leaders in the company as to how they should treat their female colleagues.  Dolan shared with those of us in the audience that day that the choice to create an environment where everyone’s voice is equally valued helps him too.  It helps him maintain a competitively healthy workplace.  It secures Bacardi’s role as an active player in the movement to achieve gender equality in the workplace.  And most importantly, makes him feel thankful that he is able to use his power as a CEO – and as a white man -to help even the playing field.

Having difficulty advocating for yourself?  Start by advocating for others.

Even though you may not be the global CEO of an international brand,  I still think there is immense value to be derived from this story.  Have you ever found it’s easier to extol the virtues of a friend or colleague rather than sharing your own accomplishments?  I certainly have.  Many of our clients feel this way too.  Sometimes it stems from a fear of being boastful.  Or feeling unsure about how to talk about your strengths (hint: Bespoken can help with that!). Or a previous negative experience you had speaking about yourself in public.  

Yet no matter where you are in life, or where you work, look around. I wager you can find at least one place you can use your voice to create space for someone who may be lacking the room in which to find theirs.  Maybe it will be during your next staff meeting.  Or at dinner with friends.  Or at your next family gathering.  Regardless, you will be pleasantly surprised the power to be derived from choosing to be part of the macro-movement and in your own way, in your own time, help all of us trying to move the needle towards a world where all voices have equal weight.

Code-switching: Connect with Your Audience

Code-switching: Connect with Your Audience

What Is Code-Switching?

Linguists traditionally define code-switching as, “the practice of alternating between two or more languages or varieties of language in conversation.”  A more contemporarily relevant definition factors in race and identity.  For example, the minds at NPR’s aptly named Code Switch blog offer this framing, “Many of us subtly, reflexively change the way we express ourselves all the time. We’re hop-scotching between different cultural and linguistic spaces and different parts of our own identities — sometimes within a single interaction.”  

President Obama was often cited for his ability to code-switch effectively and flawlessly.  He’d put his audience at ease, making them feel he was just like them by the way he spoke to them.  Without undermining his undeniable position of authority in the exchange.  This video from 2009 shows then President-elect Obama at Ben’s Chili Bowl, a famous eatery in a historically African-American section of Washington D.C.  When the cashier asks President Obama if he needs change from his purchase, Obama replies, “nah, we straight.”  I think it’s fair to say, had President Obama been purchasing refreshment at a restaurant located in a predominantly white neighborhood he may have answered differently.

How can code-switching help me connect with an audience?

One of the most important questions to ask yourself when prepping for a public speaking opportunity is, “Who is my audience?”  A clear understanding of your audience is important for a number of reasons.  Not least of which is so you can decide how you should talk to them.  For example, the language and tone I would use when presenting to a group of high school seniors preparing for college interviews would differ markedly from a workshop with high level corporate executives about to speak to investors. With the group of high school students I may find myself peppering my talk with informal qualifiers such as, “Totally” and “Amazing”.  While in a more formal and corporate setting, my grammar would understandably be more formal and precise.  Yet the underlying similarity in both these situations is it’s still my voice. I’m still me.

Using code-switching to your benefit

I like the reasons Somali author, Roda Osman ascribes to code-switching.  She says, “I regularly use code switching for three reasons: lizard brain, fitting in and getting something.”  Lizard brain she defines as something the brain does automatically.  I think the latter two reasons are the most powerful because they involve deliberate choice.  At Bespoken we often say “your power is your choice” and I think it is doubly true when it comes to choosing the words you’ll use to connect with your audience.  The next time you find yourself preparing to speak publicly take the time to reflect on the language you want to use.  It’s another powerful communication tool to have in your back pocket.

Most valuable thing Warren Buffett owns?  A degree in public speaking.

Most valuable thing Warren Buffett owns? A degree in public speaking.

What’s the only diploma the 3rd richest person in the world has hanging in his office?  

It’s from Dale Carnegie’s public speaking course issued to one Mr. Warren Buffett in 1951.  Buffett credits it as “the most important degree I have.”  Even at the young age of 20, Buffett was smart enough to understand that it didn’t matter how much of a financial genius he was.  He knew if he didn’t invest in his public speaking skills he wouldn’t be able to share his expertise with others.  And that would mean not achieving the success he envisioned for himself.  What kind of success do you envision for yourself?What role does communication and public speaking play on your path to achieving it?  

So Why Don’t We Invest In Ourselves More?

Why do many of us shy away from investing in our communication skills in a significant way?  I think it’s common for people to think those who excel at speaking in public are just naturally natural. Or that performers are good liars.  Or that some people are just born hardwired with the ability to speak in front of others.  In my opinion, none of these are true.  Communication is a muscle.  And just like any muscle it takes time to build and strengthen.  More than likely the underlying cause why people avoid practicing their public speaking skills is fear of discomfort and the unfamiliar.  So much so that sometimes it takes a goal like wanting to be a millionaire by the age of 35 to push us past whatever’s holding us back and sign up for the public speaking course.

An Investment in your public speaking skills is an investment in yourself.

At Bespoken we believe that developing effective communication skills is something that positively influences all aspects of a person’s life.  The ability to communicate confidently will support you from informal conversations with colleagues all the way to full-scale public presentations.

One way to warm up to the idea of formally practicing your communication skills is by making a list of all the possible opportunities you have to communicate publicly.  It may surprise you how many options there are.  Sharing an idea during a staff meeting.  When you’re having your weekly check-in with your boss.  Taking a potential client out for lunch.  Then, of course, there are the more formal opportunities – presenting or speaking in front of a live audience.  Think about what it would be like if each one of these encounters was rewarding and successful.  It would be pretty great, wouldn’t it?

If you’re reading this article chances are you’re contemplating working with a communication coach or want to improve your communication skills.  Take a moment and be honest with yourself.  If you haven’t taken the plunge already, why is that?  What exactly are you afraid of?   “When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”–Aude Lorde.

Hate the sound of your voice? It’s not you, it’s science!

Hate the sound of your voice? It’s not you, it’s science!

Is listening to recordings of your voice unpleasant?

One of the best ways to hone your public speaking skills or presentation skills is to record your voice when you practice.  Listening to the playback helps highlight verbal crutches you may want to eliminate such as, ‘um’, ‘like’, and ‘so’.  It also provides a way to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and ask yourself: When do I sound the most clear and concise? At what points do I lose focus or lack volume?  When trying to emphasize a particular thought am I straining vocally?  These things become easier to identify and fix when you use a recording of yourself to prepare. Yet many of us would rather eat glass than listen to the recorded sound of our own voice.

It doesn’t even sound like me.

Many of our clients say they don’t like the sound of their own voice.  I often attribute this to previous negative public speaking experiences.  Maybe that failed book report from fourth grade is haunting you.  Or the time you crashed and burned giving the speech at your grandmother’s 75th birthday.  But it turns out bad past experiences are not the primary culprit – science is!

Jonah Bromwich, a reporter for the New York Times recently explored why so many of us find the sound of our own voice off-putting.  Bromwich chatted up John J. Rosowski, a professor and researcher at Harvard Medical School who focuses on the middle ear and William Hartmann, a physics professor at Michigan State University specializing in acoustics and psychoacoustics. (Side bar: how fascinating is the concept of psychoacoustics?  A whole branch of psychology devoted to the “psychological and physiological responses associated with sound”?!?)

Ok, so according to Hartmann, because our vocal cords vibrate when we speak we experience the sound of our own voice internally.  The vibrations of our voice “are conducted through our bones and excite our inner ears directly.”  To make things even wilder, other factors influencing how we sound to ourselves include the interaction of these vibrations with “cerebrospinal fluid, the clear liquid that sits within the brain and spine.”  More science!

Why do I sound so weird to myself?

Here’s the thing: the most typical pathway we experience sound through is external.  Vibrations from the air pass through the “chain of our hearing systems, traversing the outer, middle and inner ear.”  When we hear a recording of ourselves our brain experiences the sound of our own voice through an entirely different channel than it normally does – hence the weirdness.  This just further supports Bespoken’s belief that there are no ‘good’ speakers or ‘bad’ speakers. It also explains why many of our clients shy away from taping themselves when practicing their public speaking and presentation skills.

Now that you know why you dislike the sound of your own voice, and that it’s perfectly natural and normal, you have one less excuse not to utilize this effective and useful tool the next time you’re preparing to speak publicly.

Conquering Your Fear of Client Cultivation

Conquering Your Fear of Client Cultivation

The biggest fear for female entrepreneurs? Attracting new clients.

As someone who started my own business relatively recently this September, 2016 study by Hiscox (a leader in specialized business insurance) resonated with me.  DNA of an Entrepreneur surveyed 1,000 U.S. business owners and found the biggest fear of female small business owners surveyed is not being able to attract new clients (24%).  I imagine any number of thoughts such as these pass through the mind of all entrepreneurs: Will potential clients find value in my idea? Will they trust in my ability to deliver as promised?  Will I deliver my pitch convincingly?  If we pull back the layers of this fear I think we’ll find at its root a crisis of confidence.  Which can be conquered by taking command of your communication skills. Start by asking yourself, “What’s my communication style?”

Know Your Communication Style

Peter A. Garber of HRD Press created a communication questionnaire we like to use with our clients.  It starts by asking you to pick the communication style that best describes you: Outspoken/Direct | Quiet/Reserved | Thoughtful/Analytical | Friendly/Unassuming.  I appreciate these are broad categories.  You can certainly be quiet and also thoughtful.  But in my experience most people identify strongly with one category more than the rest.  It then goes on to ask, “In what ways is your communication style misunderstood by others?”  I find this question particularly important because it acknowledges that we’ve all been misunderstood at one time or another. And it encourages an ability I believe we each have to take a step back from these situations and identify what went wrong.  Honoring that you have your own unique communication style is the first step to understanding how to shape your communication skills in business to your advantage.

Can nerves be a good thing?

I imagine another facet of this fear of not being able to attract new clients is, “Will I make a good impression?”  The factors that inform the impression someone has of you are multifaceted to be sure.  Through our work we’ve found that two of the biggest are our physical choices and vocal tone.  When pitching a new client, nerves are sure to be running high.  This is precisely when unconscious physical habits such as, playing with the pen on the desk or fixing our hair unnecessarily kick in.  It’s our subconscious way of diffusing nerves.  Think of them as unconscious self-preservation tactics.  I find this comforting, actually.  It’s easy to look at nervous ticks as things that make you a ‘bad’ or ‘weak’ at business communication skills.  But at their root their just your system’s (misdirected) way of helping you succeed in that moment.

Take a deep breath.

Nerves also affect breath.  Have you ever experienced a time when you were nervous speaking to someone and ‘lost your air’? I have.  Counteracting this is where technique comes in.  One way we like to practice is by placing one hand on your upper chest and one on your abdomen just above your bellybutton.  Take an inhale isolating your breath into your top hand.  Then do the same with the bottom hand. Notice which sensation feels familiar and which awkward.  Over time the goal is to breath into your bottom hand – your diaphragm.  Breathing into the top half of your chest put unnecessary strain on your vocal chords and creates a roadblock of sorts for your voice.  Breathing into your diaphragm creates a supported foundation to communicate from. Check out our xxx video for step-by-step instructions.

Recruiting new clients may never be a breeze but understanding your communication style and how to shape it will lead to higher rates of success when communicating in high-stress environments and change feelings feelings of fear to excitement and anticipation.