Preparing for confident communication
Speaking with confidence takes preparation and practice. When preparing to communicate, you need to keep a few key points in mind:
- develop your personal image – Being comfortable in your clothing and dressing appropriately for the occasion help you to feel more confident.
- know what you want to say – This helps you to feel prepared and competent. So you need to prepare your message ahead of time if you think you might have trouble conveying it. Consider where your message may be unclear, because people don't always ask questions. Ensure the message is simple and specific, and includes arguments or examples to support your main points. Knowing what your audience wants and what their interests are can help you to speak to those interests while conveying your message.
- address fears and self-talk – You may find that you are worrying when speaking, telling yourself that you will make mistakes or be rejected by your listeners. This type of self-talk erodes your confidence and increases stress. Another useful strategy is to imagine the worst possible outcome, and prepare yourself for it. If you are prepared, you are even more likely to succeed.
Your voice and how you use it are important aspects of confident interpersonal communication. The critical areas to focus on are as follows:
- inflection – Your voice's inflection is how it rises and falls as you speak. Without inflection, you will speak in a monotone, which is boring for listeners to follow. When your inflection or pitch goes down at the end of a sentence, it shows certainty and is authoritative. When your inflection goes up at the end of a sentence, it indicates a question or uncertainty.
- volume – A confident voice is audible but not overpowering. If you shout, your audience will back away from your message. If you speak very quietly, people will struggle to hear you and may become frustrated or disinterested. Speaking audibly engenders confidence in the speaker as well as conveying confidence to the listener. People are more likely to overrule what you say if they struggle to hear it, which can create a cycle of weakening confidence. If you know that your voice is too quiet, practice speaking more loudly and opening your mouth to accentuate each word.
- tone – When speaking, you need to ensure that your tone matches what you want to say. If people think that you are joking when you are serious, you are not getting your message across. Typically, people find a lower tone more authoritative than a higher-pitched tone.
- speed – The speed at which you talk affects your confidence and the confidence your audience has in you. Confident speech is typically fluent and slow enough for people to follow with ease, and free of lengthy pauses. Speaking rapidly often indicates nervousness and makes it difficult for a listener to follow your message. This is especially problematic when speaking in groups, because people in group situations are less likely to ask you to slow down. If you hesitate or pause frequently when you speak, your listeners will sense your uncertainty and may become bored waiting for your message to arrive. If you prepare well, you will hesitate less.
Confident body language
How you use your voice can affect your projection of confidence when communicating. So can how you use your body. Confident communication relies on a few key items:
- posture – How you carry yourself tells your listeners something about you and about how you feel about your listeners. Standing tall with your hands loosely by your sides shows that you are alert and relaxed. If you are sitting, you should sit upright with your arms by your sides, resting either on the arm rests, the seat, or on your thighs. A posture that is alert and relaxed helps you to become more alert and relaxed, and conveys confidence in yourself and interest in your audience.
- eye contact – A steady gaze mixed with brief periods of looking away can be used to convey respect and interest in a person, and will enhance your message.
- gestures and facial expressions – These are important ways of conveying information. If they don't match your words, you'll give mixed messages and appear inauthentic or unconvincing. Smiling and using open, relaxed, spontaneous gestures convey a relaxed warmth and build confidence.
If your posture is rigid and tense, you communicate insecurity or anxiety. If you slouch, you convey a lack of interest in your audience. Avoiding eye contact can cause you to miss important responses from your listeners, distances you from them, and conveys a lack of self-confidence. But excessive eye contact is considered rude. Worrying or criticizing yourself reduces your confidence and your ability to communicate. When you notice negative thoughts, replace them with positive and encouraging thoughts. Encouraging thoughts support you in your task and give you the confidence you need to succeed.
It's helpful to pay attention to how your body feels. If your heartbeat is high, your stomach is queasy, or you feel tension in your muscles, you are probably feeling anxious. By focusing on your breathing and consciously relaxing your muscles, you can calm yourself.
When preparing to communicate, you need to ensure that your appearance projects the image that you want it to. You should be clear about what you want to say, why you want to say it, and who your audience is. You should also prevent negative self-talk and ease your anxiety by ensuring you're prepared for the worst possible outcome, so you know you'll be able to handle this. To use your voice confidently, take note of how you use inflections, tone, volume, and speed. Confident body language includes alert and relaxed posture, and good eye contact. You should use spontaneous and open gestures to add meaning to your message, and ensure your facial expressions match the content of your message.