10 Terrific Tips to Talk Your Way to the Top


What is "the top" anyway? According to society, "top" has a significant amount of import as evidenced by the following expressions: top-quality, top-rated, top-dollar, top-grade, top-of-the-line, and of course, top dog. It is relatively safe to assume then that we are a culture that places a premium on having "top" anything. That having been said, the impetus for this article is to present 10 Terrific Tips to Talk Your Way to the Top, wherever that may be for you.

When we communicate, most people make the assumption that this simply involves the act of talking; say what you need to say and that's it. Communication however, is really about the speaker-listener interaction and when viewed as such, leaves the assumption of "simply talking," in the dust. In fact, each time we choose to communicate we should ideally focus on the needs and expectations of the listener(s). The goal becomes: How can I say what I want to communicate in a way that will be easily understood and have the desired effect?

While there are multiple approaches to attain this goal, the following 10 tips will serve as a practical guide to talk your way to the top, or your personal best:

1. Ensure that you speak with sufficient volume. The soft-spoken individual as well as the speaker with the boisterous voice will not have a positive effect on the listener.

2. Ensure that you speak at an appropriate rate of speech by factoring in the complexity of your message. A speaker who is either too rapid or tediously slow, will lose the listener's attention.

3. Ensure that you fully pronounce your words using effective articulation. When you omit sounds or mispronounce words, you may confuse your listener.

4. Ensure that you use variation in your vocal pitch, making your intonation more dynamic. When your voice lacks highs and lows, the listener may not be able to discern the key parts of your message.

5. Ensure that your nonverbal communication matches your verbal communication. So if you are conveying a positive message, you want a pleasant and upbeat expression on your face. It is also beneficial to utilize good posture when you speak, as this will assist you in projecting your voice.

6. Ensure that you practice active listening skills. Be aware of the temptation to interrupt and judge others. Do your best to allow others to finish their thoughts, and resist the urge to formulate your response while others are speaking. When it is your turn to speak, attempt to paraphrase the other person's input. This will help determine if you have an accurate understanding of what was said. Try asking questions to learn more about a subject.

7. Ensure that you strive to build your vocabulary, as this will assist you in your speaking, listening, and writing skills. Jot down unfamiliar spoken and written words you come across, and try to decipher their meaning from the context. Always refer to a dictionary to verify the meaning as well as the pronunciation of a word with which you are uncertain, before attempting to use it. Aim for variety in your choice of words and be prepared to offer examples when necessary.

8. Ensure that you use correct grammar when speaking and writing. Avoid common mistakes in pronoun usage (e.g. Incorrectly saying "Please feel free to contact John or myself." vs. "Please feel free to contact John or me." or "between you and I" vs. "between you and me"). Be aware of subject/verb agreement (e.g. Incorrectly saying "each of them are coming to the party." vs. "each of them is coming to the party.").

9. Ensure that you determine what your goal is for a particular interaction and choose the appropriate style. If you need to establish leadership and a position of control, use more directing statements vs. questions, take the lead in initiating topics, substantiate your thoughts based on facts and experience, be comfortable disagreeing, and speak concisely with confidence. If however, you are new to a situation or choosing a position of neutrality, you would respond more than direct, ask more questions, present statements with a qualifier (e.g."I know this may sound naive."), avoid direct disagreement, and build on what others say to maintain a conversation.

10. Ensure that you periodically evaluate your communication style. There are several options for doing this including the following: occasionally audiotape or videotape yourself speaking, listen to your voicemail message, observe how others react to you when you speak, and also observe the speaking styles of others in your environment and compare how the reactions they receive may differ from reactions that you receive.

An unfortunate but nonetheless harsh reality is that the art of communication is on its way toward becoming extinct, perhaps due to the advent of technological advances. Regardless of how sophisticated our culture becomes with computers, PDAs and the like, the only proven method of being at the "top of your game" is to master the tips of talking. It's never too late to be your own personal "top banana."

**For further information on this topic, contact Dale Klein (Corporate Communication & Speech Specialist; www.speech-matters.com, dale@speech-matters.com).

Dale Klein is a Corporate Communication & Speech Specialist and is the owner of SPEECH MATTERS. As an expert in helping others communicate, Dale's clients hire her when they want to have an impact on their listeners. Dale makes a difference for people who want to improve their public speaking, interviewing, networking, presentation style and interpersonal communication.


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