Communication… It Isn't Just What We Hear And Say...

Words words words… let’s face it, it’s difficult to communicate without them! However, important though words undoubtedly are—they are not the be all and end all of our communication. What makes an engaging speaker? It’s not just the words they use (and how they use them). Communication isn’t just what we hear—but also what we see. Vocal animation alone will only take us so far if we don’t look physically engaged in the message we are seeking to convey.

At school, my Home Economics teacher used to bellow at me for my poor presentation of food. (I remember she was once particularly scathing about an admittedly, rather shabby looking lemon meringue pie I had attempted). Her special motto—delivered with an almost messianic zeal—was that we had to “feed the eye as well as the palate”. She scared the living daylights out of me, so I always nodded obediently whenever she trotted out her catchphrase.

Much as I hate to say it, though, she had a point. And her words are especially true when it comes to communication.

Interesting speakers don’t just use their voice to communicate—they use their body as well. Our face, our eyes, our gestures – these are what our listeners are looking at. If we look stiff and disengaged, if our eyes are glazed—we are not sending a message to our listeners that we value what we are saying.

That’s what effective communication is about really: Value. We have to value our message and value our listeners. We don’t do that just through our voice alone.

Top tip:

Good posture is crucial to making a good impression, showing confidence and feeling like you are the real deal. Not only will it change how people perceive you, science tells us it changes the actual biochemistry in our brains, so you will feel different too! And one inch makes all the difference. Roll your shoulders back when you come into the room. To release any tension, do some spine rolls. Then stroke your shoulders back with your hands. Have your fingers meet in the middle of your chest and stroke outwards. Use your fingers to lengthen the space between your ear lobes and your shoulders by bunching up your fingers and then spreading them in this space. This will tell your body where you want it to go. So next time you give a presentation, be aware that you need to “feed the eye” of your listener, not just their ears. 

When you are communicating, you have the power over the images and ideas that are being created in your listeners’ heads. It is up to you if you use this power to its maximum.

P.S. My lemon meringue pie wasn’t that bad.

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