My job has recently been transferred from the UK to an Asian country. With the move from my established position to a new challenging role in a new environment, I suddenly found myself lacking my usual level of confidence...

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7 Phenomenal Secrets to becoming an Extraordinary Communicator

Posted on Thursday, February 26, 2015 by Positivevoice

Have you ever assessed your own ability to communicate?

If yes, how did you rate yourself?

If no, it is never to late; read on!

Recently, I worked with the loveliest little boy to improve his speech. Essentially, his mother brought him to me saying that he needed to improve his speaking skills and confidence. When asked, he said that he believed that once his speech was clearer, he would feel more confident- he had difficulty pronouncing certain words and sounds, which made him hard to understand at times. Initially, he was not motivated to work directly on his confidence or his manner of communicating; just his pronunciation.

Fast forward 6-8 weeks and I notice that he has something emotional going on, which is impeding his progress when it comes to correcting those speech problems. Every lesson, I calmly asked him how he was feeling in terms of confidence at school and each lesson I was met with the same one word response: good. I wasn’t convinced. One lesson, it became apparent that he was blinking back tears.

Finally, he agreed to open up to me and have a coaching session. A big reminder that you can’t help someone until they WANT to be helped.  It transpired that all the children in his class at school were ignoring him. He tried to speak to them, but they didn’t listen; it was almost as if he wasn’t there. As is often the case, as time went on this had an impact on his grades at school and gave him yet another thing to be upset about. All of a sudden nothing was fun anymore. All he could think about was the misery at school; even when he was at home! He talked to no one but me about this.

So, we had some coaching which had a huge impact on how he felt and of course how you feel has a big impact on how people behave around you, so come the next day at school and that little problem whereby all the other kids were ignoring him had just disappeared!

Another interesting thing about all of this is that in the weeks that followed, his speech improved inordinately.

However, as is often the case, he needed more than just one session focused entirely on this little issue of confidence. As, I can’t force people to do a follow up, he had only had one session. Unfortunately, this breakthrough was followed by a little breakdown just a month later. So, we looked at his situation again. One of the things that jumped out at me was this:

How he communicated did not fill me with the greatest sense of self importance and worth; I was never quite sure how much he was listening to me or taking in. I just kept getting those one or two word responses. So, here is the lesson I taught him next:

How you communicate with others has a HUGE impact on how they communicate with you. When I talk about communication here, I am not just referring to TALKING, but LISTENING! If you are an excellent listener, others will be encouraged to talk to you and furthermore, they will feel amazing around you.

So, here is how to become a great listener (this is a great challenge for all you TALKERS out there).

Before I begin, take a moment to think back to all the greatest conversations you have had. Consider not just the words, but the extent to which you were listened to or encouraged to listen.

After all, what is the point in speaking if no one listens!

7 Secrets to becoming a GREAT listener:

  1. Eye contact: without this, no one will know that you are listening
  2. Undivided attention: put away your phone/tablet!
  3. Facial expressions: smiling, nodding and generally showing keen interest
  4. Avoid the temptation to focus on what you are about to say next: If your thoughts are elsewhere you are not listening. You may be able to repeat back what has just been said in the manner of a parrot, but have you really taken in the deeper levels of meaning?
  5. Little words and noises of agreement or understanding: yes (accompanied by a nod), really, how interesting, oh ok, are you sure? Hmmmm (or similar noises of agreement)
  6. Avoid interrupting: if number 5 (above) involves more than 2-3 words, this is considered as an interruption- some sensitive speakers can’t cope with more than one word, so be a sensitive listener. Always be willing to adapt your listening techniques to fit in with the person speaking- notice what they respond well too
  7. Last but not least: the number one secret: Behave as you would like others to behave around you. Consider those around you as your mirrors. If they are not listening to you, perhaps you are not REALLY listening to them either!

These are just 7 secrets; in reality the list could go on forever. For instance, you could do all the above and go away with nothing after the conversation. Real listening is not just with the eyes or the ears; it is with ALL the senses and only occurs when we really feel what is being said.

During the very best conversations I have ever had; I have lost all awareness of space and time and become totally engrossed in what is being said. This is LISTENING.

In my next post: How to Become More Convincing and Influential, I show how to apply this same little rule to public speaking.

7 Secrets to Acquiring a British Accent

Posted on Tuesday, February 17, 2015 by Positivevoice

I rarely write about accent reduction because whilst it appears to be my main offering, it is, in fact, just one of the many routes to becoming a confident communicator.

This week I had a chat with a potential client, who like many people I speak to on the phone, said that he was convinced he would feel more confident and be taken more seriously if his accent was less obvious. My automatic response was to say, but ‘If you were totally confident, how would you feel about your accent?’…There was silence for a few moments, and then he said that he 'wasn’t sure'. This is a conversation that i have almost every week. 

So, in order to help people become more confident communicators, I offer the following options:

  • Confidence coaching: 2-4 sessions of 2 hours
  • Public Speaking training: Lesson duration dependent on needs, but usually 4-20 hours
  • 12 week course in Accent Reduction: 24 hours

I have listed these beginning with the quickest solution first J

For those of you who have chosen to pursue lessons in accent reduction, I would love to share my top 7 Secrets. This is based upon the mindset, practices and learning styles of my most successful clients. One of the very best ways to become good at something is to model those who have already succeeded:

7 Secrets to Acquiring a British Accent

  1. Set a Specific Goal: set a timeframe and an intention in terms of what you will be able to do when you can speak in this clear, confident manner: E.g. In 3 months time, I will pitch for new business at work or in 3 months time, I will begin interviews for a new job…
  2. Mindset: I was working with a client over the weekend who just seemed to be trying too hard. I know this sounds like an unusual observation, but when working on an accent, it is very important to remain relaxed; otherwise the muscles in the mouth and throat can become too tight. I suggested relaxing and just speaking ‘normally’. He said that he was afraid I would lose my patience if he made too many mistakes. This made me smile and I reassured him that I enjoyed teaching and would always remain patient- from my side, it isn’t even about patience, I just get into the zone and focus on helping my clients. I enjoy the challenge! As a student, it is important to do just this; let go of negative thoughts and emotions, get into the zone and rise to the challenge.
  3. Practice: This is perhaps the most important point in this list. You obviously must be very passionate and dedicated to practice at regular intervals throughout the day. This is, of course, much easier if you have plenty of English people around you to practice with. In this instance, every conversation becomes an opportunity to ’practice’. I often suggest doing a few of my warm up exercises each time you come in contact with water- if you are anything like me, this will be plenty of times per day. Sticking up post-it notes with key words written on them is another great way to encourage practice. Remember it is ALL about resonance; my warm up exercises will help you with this. Check out my video on YouTube
  4. Listen to Recordings of Your Own Voice: All my students are encouraged to record their lessons and then listen to the recordings between lessons. Recently, one student listened to all of the audios we had recorded and wrote up all the advice I had given on each sound, so that these pieces of advice would all be written down in the same place for each sound. The interesting thing about this was that I noticed a big improvement during the last few lessons we had (by which point she had already begun doing this). She said she had felt very relaxed whilst writing these notes and we all know that this is the best learning state, don’t we?
  5. Ask for Help: Let me know if you are experiencing any negativity/frustration- we can then work through this together
  6. Follow My Advice: This sounds very simple, but not everyone practices in the way I suggest:

-          Listen to the audios recorded during lessons

-          Practice throughout the day, everyday (remind yourself that it is only for 3 months)

-          Correct yourself when you catch yourself making mistakes (repeat what you just said, or use the word in the next sentence, modifying your pronunciation as needed)

-          Listen and read at the same time (Use audio books or download the podcasts that accompany magazines, such as the Economist). This is very effective as it helps you to change the voice in your head

-          When listening to the audio of the lesson, pause it to repeat where necessary

-          If you ever feel frustrated/ tired during self study, change to a different sound or come back to a warm up exercise- there are specific warm up exercises that will help you with each sound

-         Practice awareness: Be aware of your speech and that of others during conversation

  1. Choose someone to Emulate: A great way to transform your speech is to find someone who has got what you want. Who do you ‘know’ who has a lovely British accent? If no one comes to mind, find an actor or TV personality.

Of course, having one-to-one lessons with me is not the only way to change your accent. I have had great reviews from people watching my YouTube videos. The important thing is to follow the concepts in the list above:

Practice positively and regularly

If you haven't already, download my FREE eBook and audio series:

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