On the first day of the first week of Earth, Genesis begins with “And God said . . .” Later in Genesis, Eve was fashioned out of man’s rib, “And the man said . . .”—the first recorded words of a human being. God had spoken, and mankind, made in the image of God, could likewise speak, whereas none of the other beings in creation could use words in that way. Clearly “speech” was a special gift from the Creator.
That doesn’t mean we have always used this gift to the best of our ability.
I always had a fear of public speaking. In fact, I was downright terrified. In college, I wouldn’t show up for finals where I had to speak in front of others. In my last year of law school, when I had to be in moot court, you could say I didn’t shine. I molded my law career as a transactional attorney, putting deals together in the back room.
Then I went through a vast change in my life, left the pursuit of law, and dug deeply into consciousness and healing studies. One day I got a very strong message from Spirit that I was to bring my healing work to the world. Seriously, me? I was willing but the flesh was weak. So I decided that the only way to get over my fear was by the process of immersion. In one day, I booked myself to give a seminar once a week for 12 consecutive weeks, in 12 different venues.
At the first workshop I used a trick I had learned as a mountain climber. There, I had learned to traverse dangerous vertical “friction slabs” where there is no way to protect yourself, no cracks or nubbins for feet and hands, just pure balancing. The way I conquered my fear was to convince myself I was walking across a kitchen floor. So to overcome my fear of public speaking, I convinced myself, in my strong-willed way, that there was actually no audience.
I walked into the room, pointed at someone, and without so much as a “hello” to the group, said, “you’re first!” I would work with that audience volunteer as if there was no one in the room watching, and when finished with him, I would call up another. By the time I got to the 12th session, people were lined up to get in, and I could at least glance at the audience. Today I talk at events and workshops with thousands of participants, without notes and even without knowing what my topic will be. I have learned to get out of my own way and let Spirit work through me.
Why do I tell you about this? Because you, too, may have avoided exposing yourself to a wider audience for your work. Or you may have trouble communicating even on a one-to-one basis. Do you mumble or stumble over your words when in a confrontational situation? Can you express your feelings to someone else? Do people misunderstand your intentions because you haven’t spoken clearly?
Here are five tips for developing your gift of speech so you can communicate better—at work and at home.
- Have the courage to say what you think. You have something valuable to contribute to the conversation; don’t be afraid that your input isn’t worthwhile. Be open and honest.
- Remember that communication involves not only spoken words, but also body language and nonverbal cues. Your whole body can talk, especially your hands and face. Use larger gestures if addressing a large group. If your arms are crossed and shoulders are hunched, you are saying that you’re unwilling to listen or to communicate.
- Enunciate. Are people always asking you to repeat yourself? Try to speak clearly. Consciously slow down your speech a bit; if you talk too fast, others will think you’re nervous and find you difficult to understand.
- Pretend you’re talking on the radio or on TV. Would an audience that can’t see you get the drift of what you’re saying? Raise and lower your pitch, animate your voice, and use an appropriate volume.
- Learn to listen. When you really understand what someone else is saying, your response will be so much more effective.
Your ability to express yourself will grow as you practice good communication skills. Use the gift of speech wisely, and your relationships, both personal and business, will prosper.