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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 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

More Resources About Strengthening Communication Skills

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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