Speaking spontaneously or "talking on your feet" is an art that can be developed. Like other forms of art, communication in the moment can be a beautiful and powerful method of personal or professional expression. So, rather than prescribing a script that will enable you to speak well in front of other people such as friends, family, work colleagues or strangers, I offer a different way of supporting yourself in this endeavour. Tend to the emotional state of your mind, your cognitions/mental thoughts and the physical state of your body and very likely, the words will fall into place.
Whether you intend to talk to another person individually or talk to an audience of people, the emotional state of your mind will have an effect on your style of communication. It is initially helpful to be mindful of what your emotional state is - for example "Am I feeling sad today?" or "Am I feeling really happy today?" Whether we like it or not, often our emotions influence our tone of voice, the pace of our speech, our ability to articulate words and ideas, and other important aspects of communication. While you may not be able to change your emotions, you can at least be aware of what they are and what role they will most likely play in interpersonal exchanges. One advantage of doing so is that you may be able to calibrate your expectations to help them be more realistic. If you are feeling really sad because of something that is going on in your personal life, you may find it difficult to give your employees a believable, motivating pep-talk related to boosting productivity. If that is the case, either you give yourself a break and recognise you are not perfect or perhaps you decide to postpone the pep-talk, -just as examples.
It can be really useful to be aware of your mental thought processes that are playing in your head when you are trying to communicate. Do you believe you are bad at communicating? If so, your negative thoughts could be influencing your communication as part of a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if you think you speak poorly and never get your message across to people effectively, then your mind is most likely influencing your actions out of your awareness, or subconsciously. Your mind may be preparing to live through yet "another bad experience" of communicating with someone. If this happens, you may be left with less mental resources that are required to focus on what it is you are trying to say. Another example of how your mental processes can influence your communication is when you believe, say, a conversation is going to be difficult. An example is when you need to discuss an issue with a colleague who has a different work style. You may wish to talk about implementing a system that you know the colleague will not like. As a result, you prepare yourself to go into "battle" with the colleague. Your communication with that colleague might be influenced by the idea that battle will most likely take place, which can make you feel defensive. Alternatively, you could avoid being influenced by a preconceived expectation and end up communicating on a relatively "clean slate" or in the present with that person. The outcome could be significantly different, depending on your mindset.
Lastly, it can be helpful to pay attention to the body process when we are communicating. How many people physically shake before speaking before a group or an audience? Does your heart start racing? Does your breathing become shallow? Most likely, if these are the physiological responses, then they are indicating that the body is responding to fear of speaking. It can be helpful to recognise this fear and then to address it. It rarely is effective to tell yourself to "not be afraid", but it can help to actually breathe deeply, slow the heart rate down by sitting or soothing in some way (like looking at a peaceful image or quickly meditating) and steady the shaking hands. The mind and the body work closely together and therefore soothing the body and addressing your physical state can ease the mind.
Speaking spontaneously - "on our feet" - can be an extremely satisfying act. It helps us to express ourselves and to feel heard. It also helps us to feel connected to the world and what is going on around us. When we do not communicate in the present we can end up feeling frustrated, left-out and alone. I encourage people to experiment with different ways to communicate and find what works best for them as individuals. I also encourage people to pay attention to their emotions, thoughts and body. Each play a vital role in effective communication.
Blogging about mental health issues for personal and professional development. All material is authored by Cori Lambert unless explicitly stated otherwise. Authentic Consulting and Counselling is located in West Perth, Greater Perth Area.