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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California


Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will break our heart.

Being able to make your point is a big step towards influencing others and gaining more control of the world around you. This will increase your motivation, self-esteem, and opportunities for promotion. Here are some ways to improve your communication skills:

  1. Pick the proper time and place for a discussion. If these considerations are ignored, you can expect only a limited transfer of information.

  2. If you want something, be specific and express yourself clearly.

  3. To make sure that people have understood you, ask them to repeat your message back to you in their own words.

  4. Choose your words carefully. Avoid words that will trigger a negative reaction.

  5. Watch people's faces and body language for their response to your message. Pay special attention to their eyes for signs of confusion, resistance, or lack of understanding. (See Communicating: Reading Body Language.)

  6. Choose, if possible, a quiet area for your discussion. If there is unavoidable background noise, raise your voice and use gestures to reinforce your words.

  7. Vary your manner of speaking in order to keep the other people interested. Retain listeners' attention by changing the volume and speed of your delivery, and by pausing before or after you make an important point.

  8. Maintain eye contact with the people you are speaking to, but remember that some cultures find this threatening or rude.

  9. Devote all your attention to the conversation at hand. Don't allow phone calls or other people's interruptions to distract you.

  10. Listen carefully to what the other people are saying and how they are feeling. Pay close attention to the nuances of their voices, gestures, facial expressions, postures, and eye movements.

  11. When you want to make a particularly important point, raise your voice a bit or speak more deliberately. Use body language to reinforce your message by leaning forward, widening your eyes, or using gestures.

  12. Always start the conversation on a positive note. The potential for conflict can be reduced by starting with a subject on which you and your listeners agree. This foundation of common interest will establish an atmosphere of trust that will make it easier to deal with more contentious issues.

  13. Try to replace the word "but" with "and." "But" is a word that implies disagreement and dismissal, and using it will make your audience resist your arguments.

  14. Use "I" rather than "you." The first-person approach implies that you are willing to be part of the solution. For example, instead of saying "You need to clean up this mess," try "I need some help getting this mess cleared up."

  15. Be specific. Avoid phrases such as "We'll get it done soon," and say instead "We'll have it done by Friday at noon."

  16. Respect people for their ideas. You don't have to agree with every idea, but you should give others the opportunity to express their opinions. Listen to be influenced. Don't cloud your mind with your own preconceived ideas. Be mindful of the fact that you do have prejudices that may interfere with your ability to appreciate others' opinions.

  17. If you have a disagreement with someone, consider

    • emphasizing things you have in common;

    • mirroring the person's body posture, tone of voice, and gestures;

    • agreeing with their feelings even if you disagree with their ideas.

  18. Make your message clear. Keep it

    • short;

    • free of jargon and legalese;

    • simple;

    • interesting — add an anecdote that will make it relevant.

  19. Confirm understanding and agreement. Ask for periodic feedback. Listen to what others say and judge whether you have whole-hearted agreement or superficial compliance. If it's the latter, you need to ask more questions to find out the reasons for any reluctance.

  20. Involve other people in helping to find a solution. Ask them for help even if you had ideas for an appropriate solution. Using their ideas will enhance their buy-in and ownership for a successful outcome.

  21. End conversations with a summary so that all parties are clear about what has taken place and what has been agreed to.

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