Communicating With Confidence
Listening well, speaking clearly, asking the right questions—communication skills like these are vital if you want to reach your career, work search and education goals. By using a few simple strategies, you can boost your communication confidence.
In the two-way flow of communication, the verbal and non-verbal messages you send affect your relationships with other people. This may seem straightforward, but communication can easily become unclear and complicated, as the following examples show:
- Shawna asks her co-worker Sue to finish a project for her. Sue hints that she doesn’t want to do Shawna’s work, but Shawna “hears” Sue say yes.
- Cam keeps asking Alexa to join a volunteer committee. Trying to be “nice,” Alexa repeatedly declines by making excuses and hoping Cam will eventually get the message.
- A daughter angrily says to her father, "Go ahead! See if I care!" She hopes he does see how much she cares.
The way to avoid ineffective communication patterns like these is to practise being authentic. This means explaining how you really feel and asking for what you really need.
Knowing that you have a right to feel what you feel and to ask for what you need will help you be authentic—not aggressive, not "nice"—just direct, honest and respectful. Try the following suggestions to help you communicate effectively:
- Speak clearly and simply. Try to say what you mean. If you think you may have trouble saying something you need to say, write it out or record it and practise saying it.
- Make sure your voice matches what you want to say. Does it sound like you're joking when you want to be serious? Are you mumbling because you think it's selfish to ask for what you need? When you’re stating a fact, does your voice go up as if you’re asking a question?
- Be aware of your posture. It's easier to speak clearly and authentically when you sit or stand tall.
- Take full, deep breaths. This is a good way to stay in touch with your feelings. Is your stomach in knots? Is your heart racing? What do these signals from your body tell you about how you're feeling? Relax as much as you can.
- Keep your goals in mind. They'll help you stay in touch with what you need.
- Speak for yourself by using the word "I." Using the word "you" often means you're focusing on the other person rather than yourself. The word "I" puts you in touch with your feelings. Instead of "You have no right to say that to me!" say "I feel angry when you say that to me!"
Respecting yourself and others
When you communicate authentically, you respect yourself and the other person. You make sure that the other person hears your feelings and needs, but you also listen to that person's feelings and needs too. These suggestions will help you maintain mutual respect:
- Choose the appropriate time and place to express your feelings and communicate your needs. For example, when your boss is working nights to meet a tight deadline, it’s likely not a good time to raise concerns about your own heavy workload.
- Express yourself as clearly as you can. Focus on and really listen to other people when they speak.
- Take responsibility for your own feelings. You don't need to put anyone down in order to express yourself.
- Ask other people how they feel about what you've shared with them. Respond to the feelings they share with you.
Brains work a lot faster than mouths! People talk at the speed of about 125 words a minute, but their brains turn out ideas at a much faster rate, racing ahead while they listen, filling in the space between the speaker's thoughts. This helps to explain why people hear only about 25% of what is said to them.
These ideas will help you become a better listener:
- Make as much eye contact as feels comfortable to you.
- Try not to think of listening as waiting for your turn to speak.
- Listen to understand.
- Try not to interrupt.
- Try to hear the feeling behind what the speaker is saying.
When you communicate authentically, you bring your whole self—your thoughts, feelings and experiences—with you. You show others that you respect yourself and them too. When you're honest and direct, people pay attention. Your voice is heard and your confidence grows.
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