Are you aware of what you do with your hands, or if you use many filler words (like, um, you know) when communicating? And that these unconscious speaking habits may be holding you back?
Most people aren’t that aware – and this is often a good thing! We have enough to do to get through each day without finding something else to work on, let’s face it.
And a few filler works like ‘um’ aren’t an issue. (The problem comes when they multiply and become a barrier for the listener.)
Likewise with gesturing. We gesture to help us think, and it’s important not to inhibit that process.
However, where our habits do become important is when the stakes are higher: a presentation we want to nail, an important conversation.
That’s when anything we do “on stage” – and by that I mean 1:1 when it matters, just as much as in front of a group – can make or break the encounter.
And here, it may be important to reframe being “on stage.” It isn’t just when we’re literally speaking of in front of a large audience but any interaction that matters: one where we’re seeking a specific outcome.
And the fact is that any habit that’s not conscious will potentially make you look either:
1. Not self-aware (un-conscious)
Two of my own habits used to be:
- Using “so” a lot
- Gesturing randomly more than I needed to
I still focus on these, to keep my awareness high. It’s easy for distracting habits to get in the way without us even realising. ‘So’ is such a common one, and can creep in anywhere…from introducing a slide to introducing a new thought.
And it’s really a word of summation, not expansion: ‘so’ we definitely don’t want it to take over!
Sometimes we might expect, or rely on, other people to tell us and get feedback that way. That usually doesn’t happen.
And the higher up in an organisation people get, the less likely it is that people will give them honest feedback on how they’re communicating. It’s not usually seen as a good career move!
And if people don’t tell us: then we need to be vigilant: to focus, to regularly watch videos of ourselves or listen – for example – to ourselves as a podcast guest.
If we don’t pay attention, we’re probably not being as effective or impactful as we can be.
“So” – it’s worth considering if unconscious speaking habits may be holding you back. These are skills, and there’s no need for them to get in your way. With some awareness, techniques and practice, you can make real improvements in how you speak in public or present.
And if you’re in Melbourne and would like to work on your skills, no matter what level you are, I have Level 1 Complete Presentation Skills and Level 2 Speakers Confluence® courses restarting in a couple of weeks.