I just got off the phone with a client who is working on being more assertive and fluid when he speaks. He complains, and I agree with him, that he starts speaking without knowing where his sentences are heading. Soon he comes to a halt, backs up, and starts again.
I do this myself, and I hate it when I hear it. It makes me feel intellectually disorganized and destined for dementia.
And it’s hard for your listeners to follow you when you start out heading west and suddenly come to a screeching halt and turn east. It’s hard enough to hold someone’s interest without adding awkward moments of silence and hairpin turns to your speech.
There is a game in which you give one another a topic–say, “The importance of being incredibly tender,” or, “How to overcome ISIS,” and then your partner challenges you to speak for 60 seconds on that very topic without awkward pauses, verbal stumblings, or non-words.
Quickly, the factory of your mind begins to spit out thoughts, and soon enough, you realize that you’ve spoken yourself into a corner–a non-grammatical dead end. You lose your point, and have to push the restart button.
But if you persist in the game, you begin to compose sentences in your head before they escape your lips. You wait for the thoughts to assemble themselves into words. You calm down. You take your time. You might even reach into the root of your spine with the long arm of your breath to find just the right word, just the right phrase that will put an elegant finish on your clean, uncluttered speech.
Stick with it for 21 days (the time, some say, it takes to develop a new habit) and you may find yourself speaking with greater confidence, greater clarity, and greater concision.
And your listeners will sense something different.
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