It’s safe to say that there are many things I’ve missed over the past two years. As I embarked on running ‘Speak to be Heard’ in January 2022, my first face-to-face group at the Oasis School of Human Relations since 2019, I was reminded just how much I’ve missed the experience of seeing people transform through the power of ‘live’ communication; where sharing thoughts, feelings and stories with a group of human beings is an inspiring place to be.
We’re all grateful for the wonderful technologies that have supported us through the pandemic and that continue to support us as we return to working lives that more closely resemble those we lived prior to March 2020. However, it feels timely, for me, to share my thoughts about the things that cannot be replicated on digital platforms. These are the ‘live’ interactions, full of energy and potency, which have the power to dynamically change the thoughts of others; that create movement and a sense of belonging to something whole, where, in a relatively short space of airtime thoughts and feelings are expressed that can move an organisation forward.
Never is this more important than when our aim is to influence someone senior to us, someone often short of time, and sometimes, patience!
In trust- based organisations, leaders depend upon their managers to be their eyes and ears, and, at a time when there has been so much change to all lives, every person’s story is not only relevant, but necessary, to how the new norm is shaped – as confirmed in our recent research Is the Future Flexible? Leading and managing in the new world of work. It often falls to managers to relay the good, the bad and the ugly to their senior leadership teams and this can be a daunting task that feels exposing and risky.
I’ve had many recent conversations with clients expressing that the absence of face-to-face communication has directly impacted on their confidence levels, and I think we’re all a bit rusty, after interacting mainly with technology for the past two years.
Revisiting ‘Speak to be Heard’ reinforced my belief that the use of technical voice and presence practices, really can bring about extraordinary changes in the people’s confidence when they feel empowered to speak freely, unapologetically, and clearly.
I was reminded of how much confidence plays a central part in our capacity to ‘speak up’ to others, when I heard the writer Deborah Levy being interviewed recently for Desert Island Discs on Radio 4. She spoke of ‘losing and withdrawing her voice,’ stating that she didn’t believe her thoughts to be valuable to anyone. Many of us experience this feeling throughout our lives, and when the stakes are high, and we feel vulnerable it can be easier to retreat than to move forward. We can easily feel dislocated from our voice, so it becomes small, and when we’re being asked to communicate messages of import it can induce feelings of restriction and strain.
Happily, there are some simple things we can all do to project confidence, be perceived as confident and to actually feel more confident! They are based on over thirty years of application with clients and provide one with a holistic toolkit of practices, where the internal impacts on the external, and vice versa.
With practice these simple tools help to counteract the physical and vocal signals of apology that can creep into communication, undermining a sense of impact, urgency, and commitment.
In ‘Speak to be Heard,’ we focus on 5 key words that enable a speaker to project a persona that is confident, relaxed, self –controlled, congruent and committed to the message being delivered.
This simple toolkit can transform the way we feel, how we are perceived and how are messages are heard.
Knowing there are some simple things you can do to help you to feel and look more in control, when you’re under pressure and where you want to make a positive impact, can really help you to harness the self-control required to influence upwards, with impact.
They are Space, Pace, Release, Focus and Breathe.
- SPACE – ‘We leak the truth from every pore’ – Freud
When we’re nervous, our tendency can be to shrink physically, to unconsciously apologise. This impacts on how much space we feel we can hold. Confident people comfortably own their space, with open body language, a welcoming ease, and a balanced, centred posture that allows the bodies calming mechanism to function properly and helpfully.
When we’re anxious we tend to speed up our delivery. By slowing down and owning the airwaves we unconsciously indicate to others that we value our contribution, that we’re worth listening to, the more we can demonstrate easy, self-control, the more we’re likely to be perceived as confident and competent.
We need to be aware of the energy we’re transferring to others when we communicate, are we a ‘drain’ or a ‘radiator’? Human interaction operates on an energetic level, so the energy we use needs to be congruent with the message we’re delivering. How do you want to be perceived? Think about it and how you can infuse your message with congruent energy levels.
Being present for another; holding space for another requires you to be fully in the moment and focused only on that engagement. It’s easy to appear distracted, to have presence we need to ‘be present.’ Presence is a choice – so ask yourself the question, do I want to be seen and heard?
Space, Pace, Release and Focus all contribute to our ability to fully ‘show up;’ to be taken seriously; to positive personal impact and if we want to influence people senior to us, they, in combination help create a persona that will attract attention.
Underpinning all of these is the final and most vital of the 5 key words –
Knowing how to breathe well, on the diaphragm, taking in more oxygen, breathing deeper, into the tummy rather than the chest, does miraculous things for the mind and body – practice the reset breath – Dr Michael Mosely calls it a ‘mini tranquiliser’ – it reduces heart rate and blood pressure, directly impacting on the calming mechanism of the parasympathetic nervous system; it generates greater mental clarity because the brain is more oxygenated and it supports the vocal mechanism, so you sound more certain, more sure and have more impact.
None of this is rocket science, but, when practiced, can be transformative.
So, next time you are required to influence others, including someone senior to yourself, think through this list of 5 words, rehearse what you’re going to say several times, out loud, because it has a different effect on the memory…judge the stakes of your message, and invest it with the commitment it deserves…the higher the stakes the more investment…feels like a good place to end!
More information on Speak to be Heard can be found HERE.