Working on changing your communication style? Patience + awareness = success.
Last weekend I ran a workshop with my friend Lisa Pertoso, founder of Follow the Fear. The focus was ways to amplify your voice in the workplace. We dug into techniques designed to help you advocate for yourself as well as others who may be lacking a voice. While debriefing an exercise on how to speak from a commanding and rooted place, a participant shared she felt fake speaking that way. She said the sound of her own voice was forced and unnatural. I then asked the rest if she seemed forced or unnatural in any way when she had spoken to the group. Not one single person said ‘yes’. Everyone expressed quite to the contrary. She seemed confident, in control, and powerful. All the ways we want to seem when we’re advocating for ourselves.
Find Truth in the Size
This moment from last week’s workshop highlights an important sensation that happens when changing your communication style. And it’s not only our clients who experience it. I’ve gone through it as well. A favorite assignment of mine from my days as a drama student is when everyone was assigned a monologue from a role they’d never be cast in. For example, my teacher gave a strapping guy with a football player-like build one of Juliet’s speeches to Romeo. As a 20 year-old woman, I performed a soliloquy of King Lear’s. The speech is in the middle of the play as Lear begins his descent into complete madness. Tackling the scene was thrilling and terrifying at the same time (much like public speaking, I think!) because it demanded an immense amount of energy. It wasn’t until after the assignment was over I realized why my teacher had specifically assigned that piece to me.
Firstly, my teacher was trying to encourage me to make bigger, bolder choices as a performer. Secondly, and more importantly, he was trying to get me comfortable with a different sensation as the sensation of being ‘big’ was not my usual way on stage. For those of you looking to change your communication style, awareness of this difference and embracing it is key to your success. Modifying your performance when public speaking hinges on embracing that it will feel and sound different. And that this difference isn’t bad, it’s just…different. As in not the way you’re used to it feeling.
Change takes practice…and time.
We say over and over that communication is a muscle. And just like a muscle that is not used to working in a certain way, it takes time. Time to build your confidence in and embrace a new communication style.
To work through unfamiliar sensations as you practice here are few things to try. Videotape yourself. Ask a friend to lend an outside eye. Work with a coach. You could even keep a journal where you track over time how you’re feeling. Regardless of what you do though be sure to extend yourself a little patience and remember— change takes time.