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8 Tactics To Make What You Say Sound Smarter And More Eloquent

8 Tactics To Make What You Say Sound Smarter And More Eloquent

Martin Luther King, Jr., Socrates, Billy Graham. What do all of these people have in common? They are all legendary speakers. The course of history has been swayed countless times by great orators and communicators. History is the actions of people, but it’s the inspiration by polished communicators which determines people’s actions. Words are one of the most powerful tools if harnessed well, and yet we can’t even order a Happy Meal without tripping over those supposed “tools.”

In a world that is jam-packed with words–especially with the advent of the internet and social media–how can you make yours stick? How can you make your words cut through the fray and have an impact? It’s all about WHAT you say and HOW you say it. Here are 8 simple tricks that are easy to implement that can improve your ability to communicate well.

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1. Be intentional

Communication is an action; it requires significant, intentional effort. The difference between gifted speakers and babblers is the time and effort invested in preparation and the skills they have at their disposal. The rest of the tips in this article are some skills for you to add to your repertoire, but the groundwork of intention must be there for those skills to have any effect.

2. Never ask questions

When you speak, do so with authority. Don’t sound unsure or held back. When you are making a statement, don’t sound like you are asking a question. Always have an opinion, and know when to share your opinion. Speak with conviction.

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3. Always ask questions

The people deemed “most conversational” are the ones who ask more questions of others than they do share their own thoughts. Approach every conversation with the goal of learning–about others, about new subjects–not the desire to tell others what you know. You have two ears and one mouth for a reason — to listen twice as much as you speak.

4. Don’t think out loud

As you’ve probably heard your mother tell you a million times, you should always think before you speak. A great communicator doesn’t speak OFTEN; he speaks WELL. Make your words matter. Choose them wisely. Good communication isn’t a reaction, it’s an intentional action. If you are quick to respond, you are reacting and aren’t taking the time to make a well thought-out statement.

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5. Eliminate “um”

Communication isn’t the most natural thing for people. From a young age, we must be taught how to communicate. When you say “um” or “uh” or “like,” it is a verbal expression that you use while your brain is processing what and how to communicate next. Cut it out. A couple seconds of silence is okay. Silence is actually a very good thing. It gives you time to think about what you want to say and how to say it well, and it also gives your audience time to chew on what you have said.

6. Have a grandiose vernacular then, use half of it

Know more “big” words than you will ever use. This gives you the ability to converse with every type of conversationalist. You can talk to the average layman and the social elite. Having an extensive vocabulary is one of the easiest ways to sound smart and eloquent–or pretentious and snooty. The trick is to know your audience and adjust your vocabulary accordingly.

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7. Stand Tall

Watch your body language. Only 10-15% of your communication is verbal (words). The remaining 85-90% is nonverbal (primarily body language). How you stand, your hand gestures, facial expressions, how quickly or slowly you speak, the pitch of your voice, when and where you move around–they all communicate significantly more to your audiences than simply your words. Nonverbals can do one of three things: enhance the verbal message, confirm the verbal message, or negate the verbal message. The best posture to show authority and confidence is standing straight up (no slouching) with relaxed shoulders. When sitting, lean forward to show interest and engagement.

8. Expect Critiques

The glory (and pitfall) of communication is that there is no one, clear cut way to communicate. You are allowed creative freedom to say what you want, how you want to say it. But never expect everyone to agree with your choices. Not everyone will connect with your communication style, so expect critiques, and humbly accept them when they come. Take every critique with a grain of salt–there is value in them, but they are also coming from people. People aren’t perfect, and others don’t always know what is best–especially with communication. Know yourself, and be confident in your communication choices, but also remain in a posture that is willing to learn and adapt.

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Austen Broome

Social Media/Public Relations Manager and Copywriter for Liquid Creative

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Last Updated on January 14, 2021

How to Apologize When You Have Made a Mistake

How to Apologize When You Have Made a Mistake

Despite our best intentions and efforts, making mistakes is a fact of life. Humans are prone to error, so we are inevitably going to mess up at one point or another.

Many of the slip ups we make won’t have any impact on those around us, but what about the times when they do hurt someone else, either inadvertently or purposefully? Do we ignore the mistake and hope it will go away on its own? Do we confront the mistake, however painful that may be, and apologize? How we react to our mistakes defines both who we are and how we are perceived by others.

I’m a voice and presence coach specializing in training people to find their voice and speak their truth. One of the most difficult tasks I teach my students is how to apologize authentically. It takes a lot of vulnerability to admit wrongdoing, and even more so to seek forgiveness and make amends. (After all, we live in a world where some of our top leaders openly avoid taking accountability for their mistakes.) However, like anything else in life, if you ignore something painful instead of facing it, that pain tends to grow and appear in other parts of your life. It’s better to face these things head on.

So how do you apologize effectively? Technically, there is no one “right” way, but there are plenty of ineffective ways to go about apologizing. I’m going to approach this from the perspective that we are genuinely remorseful and wish to make amends for the hurt we have caused.

Simply saying, “I’m sorry” is easy. But it’s important that your words match your intention. It’s complex to apologize authentically when you have made a mistake – to utter remorse that is grounded in your truth, and it’s what we’re going to cover here.

In order to make a genuine apology, I refer to a practice introduced to me by a mentor several years ago: the Hawaiian Ho’oponopono prayer. I’m not an expert on Hawaiian prayer, but having meditated with this one for a number of years, I can say that this practice of reconciliation and forgiveness is incredibly powerful.

Ho’oponopono means “to make right” or “rectify an error.” What sets this practice apart is that the focus is not on controlling a particular outcome (i.e. healing the hurt relationship you have with this person), but instead on healing yourself in order to heal the situation.

The Ho’oponopono prayer is profoundly simple, and translates as follows:

I’m sorry.

Please forgive me.

Thank you.

I love you.

Everything we need to apologize is right here. Let’s break down the structure of this apology into these 4 concrete steps for before, during, and after the apology.

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Before the Apology

Step 1: I’m Sorry – What are you sorry for?

Before you start speaking and leading from pure emotion, it’s important to actually figure out what you are sorry for:

Start by Writing Down the Facts

When you’re writing this out, avoid assigning any judgments to the scenario or making any assumptions about the person affected by your mistake. Instead stick to straight facts. Dump the whole situation onto the page, including all the details.

Ex. My friend was having a hard time with her boyfriend. She kept complaining to me about it, and I was tired of listening to the situation. I also felt I knew exactly what was going on, and what was not working, so I finally got blunt and told her my opinion. She was very offended. I realized afterward that she just needed an ear to listen, and she wasn’t looking for my advice.

Write Down Your Part in Making This Mistake

Stick to your contribution only. Avoid speaking for anyone else, simply focus on what you did that you know helped create the situation.

Ex. I gave feedback that my friend wasn’t interested in hearing. My mistake was assuming that she’d be better off if she heard what I had to say.

After Writing It All Down, Ask Yourself How You’re Feeling by Grounding Yourself in Your Truth

I teach a process to my clients called the Voice Body Connection process, which starts with grounding yourself in your physical sensations. This process will help you find your voice and speak your truth objectively, even if you are flooded with strong emotions in the moment.

Identify the Physical Sensations You Feel

Now that you have relived the experience of making the mistake by writing it out, tune into your body, and ask yourself the question:

“What is the strongest SENSATION I feel in my body right now?”

Be sure to keep this body-based. When you are preparing to apologize, taking note of your sensations helps you ground yourself in how you are feeling so that you can show up.

Ex. I feel an aching sensation in my heart.

Identify Why You Think You Are Feeling This Sensation

After you’ve identified your primary sensations, ask yourself the following question:

“What do I think is the STIMULUS that led me to feel this sensation?”

This is likely a very simple statement that you already wrote about. It’s the heart of the matter.

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Ex. I gave my friend advice she wasn’t asking for.

Identify Your Emotions About This Situation

Now that you know why you are feeling these physical sensations, move to identify your emotions. Ask yourself:

“What are my EMOTIONS about noticing all of this?”

Some primary emotions are fear, anger, sadness, disgust, joy, and arousal.

Ex. I’m feeling sad that I crossed my friend’s boundaries.

Identify Your Ideal Outcome For This Situation

Your emotions are tied to your desire for a future outcome. Ask yourself,

“Do I have any desires related to everything I just noticed?”

Examples of core desires are safety, comfort, bonding/love, and curiosity/growth.

Ex. I want to repair the relationship so that we can be close again.

Make Sure You Actually Want Forgiveness And Reconnection

Please keep in mind that if in this process, you discover that you don’t feel safe with this other person. There’s no reason to apologize and re-connect.

But if you feel safe and comfortable with them and desire to be connected again, then you can proceed to the next step of the Ho’oponopono prayer.

During the Apology

Step 2: Please Forgive Me

You’re not going to share everything from your process above with your friend. What you are going to share is your acknowledgment of the hurt you caused, your part in creating that situation, and your desire to reconnect[1].

It’s also very important to be clear about only speaking your truth and not commenting on their side. That’s their job.

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You can use this script by filling in the observations you noted above:

I think <a simple statement about what happened> happened between us…

And I believe my mistake was <insert your part here>…

I am left feeling <insert your emotions>…

and moving forward, I would want to <insert your desires>.

Ex. I think I gave you feedback that you weren’t interested in hearing…

And I believe my mistake was assuming that you’d be better off if you heard what I felt I needed to say.

I am left feeling sad that I crossed your boundaries.

And moving forward what I really want is to be close to you again, and to assure you that I will ask permission in the future before I give you advice.

Once you’ve shared this introductory olive branch, stop talking about yourself. This is it for now…. it’s all you needed to say to get the conversation started.

Your next job is to listen and be curious. Ask open-ended questions about their experience like “How did that feel for you?”. De-center yourself and let your friend share as much as they need to. When you do speak, let them know that you hear what they are saying, and acknowledge your impact.

I’ll grant you that this is hard to do – it’s easy to get defensive. But your checklist is:

  • Tell them you heard them
  • Let them know you understand you had an impact on them
  • Ask them more about their experience

Step 3: Thank You

Now that you have asked the other person about their experience, it is quite possible that they will say things you don’t want to hear. You may find yourself feeling defensive or even angry. A stressful situation like this can trigger “fight or flight” mode in your body: you may notice that you start sweating, that your pupils are narrowing, that your eyes tear up, that you start experiencing tunnel vision. This is all normal.

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To help stave this off and stay present, keep being genuinely curious about what their experience has been. Don’t listen to be “right,” listen to be connected. Listen to understand.

Even if they say something you don’t like hearing, thank them anyway for sharing the truth of their experience and for being in your life. This isn’t an easy thing to do, but it is a necessary step towards your own healing in the Ho’oponopono prayer.

Moving Forward Post-Apology

Step 4: I Love You

Let’s say you’re actually at a place where the relationship you have with the other person can be repaired. “I love you” encourages curiosity: how can you repair and reconnect? How can things look different moving forward?

Think of something you can do to express and experience your love, appreciation, or respect for each other. Make a plan for how to move forward.

A great practice is to make a list of things you are grateful for about the other person. Be sure to share this list, either as a letter or just out loud. It’s important to share how much we appreciate each other, and it feels as good to give gratitude as it does to receive it.

This last portion of the prayer is not just for the other person… it’s for you as well. Filling yourself with a sense of love ensures that you’ll be able to move on from the mistake and heal. It’s easy for many of us to beat ourselves up and continue to hold onto guilt, or even shame, about a mistake we have made — even though we are genuinely remorseful and have tried to make amends.

You can continue to repeat the entire Ho’oponopono prayer to yourself after the encounter where you have apologized:

I’m sorry.
Please forgive me.

Thank you.

I love you.

In doing so, you may find you’re apologizing to yourself too.

The Bottom Line

To speak our truth in an apology, we must show up fully without expecting anything of the other person. Though we cannot affect or control the outcome of the apology, no matter how repentant we are, following the Ho’oponopono can guide us to true repair and healing.

If you have been stuck on finding the “right” way to reconnect and apologize to someone in your life, I hope this process inspired by the Ho’oponopono prayer will help you to make that first step.

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Featured photo credit: Gus Moretta via unsplash.com

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