When you hear the word ‘communication’ what does it mean to you? In a world where our forms of communication are constantly changing (hello, Zoom!), it can be hard to balance moderating that perfect virtual meeting while also perfecting your in-person presentation for the next day. The bottom line is, we communicate every single day. Not only is communication essential to getting through our everyday lives but good communication can change how efficient we are in our professional lives (by 25%1 to be exact!).
Why Effective Communication Is Important To Building Confidence & Becoming a Leader
Have you ever found yourself admiring someone for their confidence? Whether it was the speaker at your last work conference or a co-worker who isn’t afraid to share their opinion at every meeting, we’ve all asked ourselves at least once, “why can’t I be that confident?”
In short – confidence means trusting your skills and abilities to be able to get you through a situation like a public speaking event, but we all know we can’t just pull confidence out of our back pocket when we need it (we wish!).
But…we are sitting on a little secret – you don’t have to feel confident to act confident. Confidence is something you can build over time by putting some of our below tips through ongoing practice.
And guess what? Sometimes repeatedly convincing ourselves we’re confident can lead to that ‘real’ confidence we all wish we had.
6 Ways To Help You Communicate Like A Leader
1. Stop the ‘Uptalk’
“Uptalk” is used to describe the common North American habit of rising intonation at the end of a sentence, which makes every statement sound like a question. To get an understanding of what we mean by ‘up-talking’ watch the transformation of Emile Clark when she does an “American accent” based on this common habit.
…so much so that it can cause hesitation when it comes to putting certain employees in front of external clients.
Emilia is definitely being a little…extra in the video but we’re all guilty of up-talking at some point or another. Maybe it’s when you hang out with your friends or maybe it’s when you are with your family. The important thing is that this habit stays at home and doesn’t follow you into the workplace.
2. Expand Your Vocabulary
The truth is – words matter. Not only do they matter but they will be the difference between delivering a clear, concise message or a confusing, vague, long-winded one. Some words to avoid when communicating include:
Acronyms and jargon
Ever been in a conversation with someone who loved using fancy jargon or acronyms that only people in their line of work would understand? How did that make you feel? Lost? Annoyed? Bored, maybe? This is where knowing your audience becomes important.
You need to gauge the likelihood that your audience will know what you’re talking about. If you are speaking to an audience in your industry who can follow along, then you might be able to get away with it but generally speaking, it’s better to avoid using acronyms or jargon if you can.
Oh, crutch words… We all have such a love-hate relationship with them. You love them because they buy you time to think of the next thing you want to say – but we hate them because they can make us sound nervous, frazzled, and uncertain.
We hate to say it but breaking the habit is SO HARD. One exercise to help overcome your crutch words is to:
- Identify what your favourite crutch word is
- Count how many times you use it and
- Set a goal for yourself for your next presentation (e.g. max 3 ‘ums’).
Transition words are a handy tool to indicate to the listener what is coming next and how the sentences are related. Some examples of transition words include:
- Addition: Additionally, also, as well as, to build on that…
- Clarification: In other words, the point is, the key takeaway is…
- Conflict: In contrast, however, alternatively…
- Emphasis: Especially, more importantly, critically…
- Cause/Reason: Therefore, due to, as a result of…
…and many more. When used properly, they will make it MUCH easier for the audience to follow your message.
According to Grammarly2, a qualifier is “a word that limits or enhances another word’s meaning. Qualifiers affect the certainty and specificity of a statement. Overusing certain types of qualifiers (for example, very or really) can make a piece of writing sound lazily constructed.”
In other words, when used improperly or too frequently, they can damage your credibility. Here are some examples of qualifiers we recommend ditching as soon as possible:
- “I may be wrong…”
- “I’m not sure what you think but…”
- “I think maybe we should…”
- “This might be silly, but what if we tried…”
- “I kind of think that…”
3. Nail Your Self-Introduction
Ever heard of the phrase “you only have one chance to make a first impression that lasts a lifetime?”. This is especially true in a professional context. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that you are prepared to make a strong impression by practicing the way you introduce yourself.
Making a weak self-introduction is a sure way to start on a wobbly foot, especially in an important meeting, call or presentation. Notably, if you don’t know everyone in the room, chances are you’ll be asked to do it, writing down and practicing your self-introduction will help ensure you’re not caught off guard and feel embarrassed when you aren’t prepared.
Tip: Write down a 30-second introduction and practice it until you feel like you no longer need to rely on your notes.
4. Project Confidence Through Movement
So much of what we think and feel is conveyed through our body language and facial expressions. How our body moves can give our audience clues about:
- How well you know the topic you’re speaking about
- Your emotional state (e.g. nervous, confident, uncertain)
- How authentic you are being (e.g. are you faking it or being genuine?)
- Your general attitude towards others (e.g. assertive, submissive)
That’s why it’s so important to be aware of how you are carrying yourself and make an intentional effort to project confident body language. So, what do you mean by confident body language? Well, it’s the difference between:
- Having your arms crossed and having them open,
- Sitting hunched in a ball or sitting upright with good posture,
- Hiding behind the lecture or moving in front of it,
- Having your hands flutter all over the place as you talk or intentionally syncing up your hands with your content.
Whether you mean to or not, how you move sends the audience a message about your confidence, credibility and level of preparedness.
5. Polish Your Vocal Style
Vocal style is the way you speak on a day-to-day basis and it’s as unique to us as your fingerprints. Maybe your pitch is low and you use long pauses which come across as introspective and thoughtful. Maybe you talk fast with lots of inflection that others describe as energizing and inspiring.
It’s important to understand that the way you talk can influence how others perceive us and react to our message.
Your vocal style includes:
Through your voice’s volume, you can heighten interest in what you have to say, as well as create a sense of wonder and fire the imagination of your audience.
Great speakers are slow enough to be understood and fast enough to build momentum. This keeps enthusiasm high throughout their speech.
Pausing allows your audience time to think about what you’ve said, emphasizes key points, separates ideas, and builds confidence with your audience.
Your feelings affect your voice. When you feel confident, prepared and practiced, you easily speak within your optimal speaking range.
Pronunciation and enunciation
Pronunciation refers to how you sound out the word. The speaker needs to say each syllable correctly and place the accents (emphasis) on the correct syllables for the correct meaning(s). Enunciation refers to how clearly and distinctly you pronounce your words. Good enunciation means no slurring or mumbling or running one word into the next.
6. Practice Impromptu Speaking
Impromptu speaking is when you speak off-the-cuff, without any prior preparation. By being able to answer impromptu questions in a clear and structured way, will not only get your message across, it will also go a long way in enhancing:
- Leadership Presence
- Job Effectiveness
- Workplace Confidence
- Professional Credibility
However, structuring your thoughts is easier said than done – especially when it’s impromptu. Luckily, there are techniques you can use to help you get through it!
Practice, Learn, and Appreciate
Who’s feeling confident? While you might wish confidence was something we could develop overnight, taking the time to practice, learn, and appreciate the importance of good communication can take your professional (and personal) life to a whole other level.
Looking for more ways to increase your confidence in the workplace? Download our 1-page guide to “Answering Impromptu Questions with Clarity & Structure” and get a head start on your public speaking journey!
1. “Workplace Communication Statistics (2021).” Knowledge library, December 21, 2021. https://pumble.com/learn/communication/communication-statistics/#Statistics_on_why_effective_communication_is_important_in_the_workplace.
2. Grammarly. “Qualifiers–Grammar Rules and Examples.” Grammarly. Grammarly Blog, September 12, 2019. https://www.grammarly.com/blog/qualifiers/#:~:text=A%20qualifier%20is%20a%20word,of%20writing%20sound%20lazily%20constructed.