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Getting People to Listen to You

Part of the Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies Cheat Sheet (UK Edition)

You don’t have to become a different person to get people to enjoy listening to you – you just have to make it easy for them. Even small changes on your part make the vital difference in how you come across to others.

  • Loosen up. Ease out your body – listening to someone who’s tense and buttoned-up is hard. Shake your arms and legs, run on the spot, wriggle your shoulders and spine, and see how different you feel – and sound – when you’re more relaxed.

  • Speak clearly. Make sure that people can hear and understand you by articulating your words clearly. Imitate newsreaders – they always pronounce consonants and vowels really clearly so that you understand every word.

  • Project. Speak loudly enough to be heard – not just by yourself in your head, but by other people. Take a good breath before you speak and visualise the sound streaming out from you in an arc.

  • Speak lower. After you take a breath, settle into your body and sense the sound coming from your chest. Relax to do this and don’t push down physically. When your voice resonates against the breastbone it sounds strong and convinced, and people trust it.

  • Emphasise. People who speak with impact emphasise strongly, much more than you might be aware of. Emphasising the words that matter most helps other people make sense of what you say. As an example, if you say, ‘the cat sat on the mat’, make ‘cat’ and ‘mat’ stronger than ‘on’ or ‘the’.

  • Slow down. Take your time. Getting your words out as fast as you can might feel more comfortable, but it’s entirely self-defeating if people can’t catch what you say. Take a nice deep breath, enjoy emphasising certain words, and give yourself enough space to be heard.

  • Be quiet. Pause to take breath. Allow silence sometimes. A voice that rattles on without a break is very hard to keep listening to. Silence allows your listeners to catch up, and process what you’re saying.

  • Get out of your own way. Self-consciousness creates a rift between you and your listeners, and gets in the way of real communication. Concentrate on what you want to say and on the people you’re speaking to.

  • Enjoy yourself. Don’t take yourself too seriously. If you enjoy speaking and communicating, others listen and enjoy it too.

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