hear ye! pro tips to become more well-spoken

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Finding the right words isn’t always easy. Silent pauses can be awkward. And finding a polite way to have a difficult conversation can seem downright impossible.

No matter where your communication skills stand, though, you can improve.

The key is to be patient and persistent. Like becoming a good listener, evolving your speaking ability takes practice. These expert tips for well-spoken words can help.

Read more.

Reading is a great way to relax and wind down. But there are benefits to reading beyond stress reduction.

The more you read, the more insights you gain into diverse subjects, cultures, and ideas. Books, magazines, newspapers, websites, and even social media serve as portals to important events, fascinating discoveries, philosophical musings, and incredible stories that expand your ideas of what’s possible.

In addition to learning new words and new things — which makes you a better conversationalist all on its own — readers also have an expanded vocabulary. That’s true for people of all ages, not just small children. According to the Institute for Education at University College London, teenagers who read for pleasure daily understand 26% more words than their peers who aren’t regular readers.

Finally, reading helps your understanding of complexity. It will inspire you to appreciate different sentence structures, think critically, and express deeply held feelings and opinions (again, supporting your ability to carry a conversation). It also helps you structure your own thoughts in a way that’s clearly comprehensible to other people.

Does becoming a better reader mean you need to tackle Anna Karenina or other classics? Not at all. Any kind of reading — including articles on the web like this one — delivers benefits. What matters is that you make those benefits stick by turning reading into a regular activity.

Talk in paragraphs, not pages.

Even though reading is a great habit, you don’t necessarily want your speaking to mirror what you see on the page.

Reading builds knowledge, but it does so in a long-form format that doesn’t always mesh well with what’s needed in everyday conversations.

After all, people’s attention spans are short, and they want to speak, too. What you don’t want to do is what linguists call “flooding” — or talking in pages instead of paragraphs.

Talking too much risks losing the attention of your conversation partner, or even making them feel alienated because they aren’t able to speak. Pauses may feel awkward, but the occasional pause does more than give you time for proper breathing: it can allow the other person to take up the conversation in the right moments.

Embracing the awkward pause has other benefits, such as getting the other party to open up. A longstanding tactic among interviewers is to resist the urge to fill silences — so as to encourage honest sharing without fear of judgment.

“The most powerful things are often when you let the silence roll,” Guardian journalist Simon Hattenstone says.

Reflect on your ability.

As you look to integrate multiple practices to become a better conversationalist, it’s valuable to think back to conversations you had in the past: both those that went well and those that didn’t.

You can ask people you trust for their feedback on your speaking skills. And to really become the most eloquent person in the room, you should scrutinize your own ability.

A “close reading” of how you handle normal conversation might seem cringe-inducing. But there’s a good reason for critique, whether it’s from another person or yourself. Being critical is how you improve.

This brand of self-reflection has an analogue in the world of therapy: metacognition. Metacognition is, quite simply, thinking about how you think. As communication trainers Dan Clurman and Mudita Nisker write, it has a major benefit for those looking to boost their communication skills.

“At any point in a conversation … you can use your metacognition to observe what’s going on and to ask yourself, ‘What am I trying to accomplish right now?’ Then you can decide whether to talk or to listen,” they say.

Metacognition is ultimately about being more aware of your objectives, as well as your strengths and weaknesses. That knowledge equips you to act: whether that means improving what’s not working or doing more of what is. The more you reflect on your thoughts and monitor your mental activities, the better you can assess your progress as a conversationalist.

Embrace every conversation opportunity

Just like any kind of reading will help you think more clearly, any kind of conversation (even the casual, throw-away ones) will help turn you into the most well-spoken person in the room.

Some different ways to speak more often are:

Find common ground with people you meet. In a casual conversation, you can look for shared interests, experiences, or the context you’re in to establish a connection. This could be commenting on the environment, an event you’re both attending, or a topic that you both find interesting.

Ask open-ended questions. Avoid questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Instead, ask about the person’s opinions, experiences, or recommendations.

Share something about yourself. It’s not a best practice to overshare or trauma dump with someone you’ve just met. What you can do is offer personal anecdotes, opinions, or insights.

The best way to go about any conversation is to be considerate. Avoid sensitive or controversial topics as a sign of respect, and only engage other people in line with their personal boundaries. Some people will offer up more favorable attention than others.

Photo by Fa Barboza on Unsplash.

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