The human being is a social animal, who uses speech to transmit to those around him his aspirations and desires, but also his most intimate fears and the needs that he feels.
Although this is an ordinary act, which begins to develop at the end of the first year of life, it is also an art that requires training and patience.
A person who considers himself a good speaker must also be someone who is able to listen attentively and judiciously. This is why it is a knowledge that transcends the technical, and interferes in the field of affective and social.
In this article we will deal with the 25 rules of good speech . They are very simple keys, but they require dedication. Using them will make speech more effective and useful.
The 25 Rules of Good Speaking
We shall now proceed to describe the 25 rules of the good speaker. For this purpose we will incorporate the different elements that are part of the communicative fact, since all of them are relevant to learn how to transmit in an appropriate way that benefits the parties involved. We will therefore focus on the sender, the receiver and the message.
1. speaks assertively
Assertiveness is a basic rule so that any conversation can take place in a healthy way , as it ensures that those involved perceive that their mutual needs are satisfied and that (in turn) the rights and duties implicit in the bond are respected. Assertive communication requires the ability to transmit what is really thought, but considering in the process the sensitivity and the position of the other.
There are specific techniques that are used in the training of assertive communication, such as the sandwich (transmitting the content that we consider delicate by placing it between two positive verbalizations, with which the interaction begins and ends) or the broken record (maintaining our position as long as it remains reasonable, remembering it firmly after each attempt of persuasion or dissuasion). Assertiveness is a healthy and constructive balance between the extremes of aggressiveness and passivity .
2. Summarize, reflect, and paraphrase
Summary, reflex and paraphrasing are three elementary tools for an adequate speaking ability; although they are based on something even more basic: the ability to listen . These ways of interacting make it clear to the person in front of us that we have understood him/her, and are key for the conversation to flow in a favourable way for both parties.
Through the summary we synthesize in a clear way everything that the person has told us, reducing ambiguity and putting it in context. With the reflection we repeat and we underline the emotional contents of what has been said (encouraging to go deeper in all of it) and with the paraphrasing we remember the most objective aspects of the matter dealt with (the facts). These strategies serve to guide the interaction at different levels, according to what we want to know or address.
3. Use short, clear sentences
The use of simple words is essential, especially when what we want to convey lends itself to this. Sometimes we want to talk about something that worries us or generates an overwhelming emotion, which implies using more abstract concepts that go deeper into the emotional life, so we leave in them the echo of our subjectivity and even resort to more complex grammatical structures (metaphors, analogies, etc.).
However, in everyday life situations , it is useful to strip the discourse of any nuances that might lead to inappropriate interpretation. This is essentially more relevant when we are transmitting contents that are supposed to have a certain objectivity, which are usually circumscribed to the field of work or even academia. This way of speaking reduces the burden of subjectivity and should be used when the context requires it.
4. Avoid monochord pitch
The tone of voice is very important in the communicative act . The brain itself has specific structures whose purpose is to shape its musicality, providing it with nuances that maintain the attention of those to whom we speak. Its injury precipitates an alteration known as aprosody, and in some cases a foreign accent syndrome (in which a tone similar to that of the verbal inflections of foreign people is adopted).
The monochord tone stimulates the fatigue of the listener and accelerates the process of attentional decline. In this way, although sustained attention (or vigilance) begins to decline after a period of 30-45 minutes, when the speaker maintains a regular tone this point of decline becomes very early. It is also a boring way of talking, which reduces the playful component of this act.
5. Do not shout or disrespect
Raising your voice to shout and/or use bad words, such as disrespect or insults, erodes with enormous ease the willingness of two people to reach an agreement when their initial positions were at odds. All this is perceived as a vehement signal that the ideas of the other person are not validated, which precipitates cognitive mechanisms that break any disposition to listen to what one wants to communicate.
6. Emphasize the important
Any medium-length conversation is composed of a main topic and a set (more or less broad) of subtopics tangentially associated with it, which allow for greater support of what you want to communicate even though they are not necessary to understand the message.
These are secondary ideas that bring value, but can be a reason for dispersion of the central focus in the event that the ability to give hierarchy to what is said is not available.
The prosody (or tone) allows us to emphasize which contents of the discourse are the key to what we want to communicate, reducing the possibility that the exchange will lead to an abuse of arguments that leads nowhere. Learning to redirect the focus of attention is also very important, as long as we perceive that secondary ideas are gaining too much attention (sometimes deliberately when our interlocutor is not right).
7. Make correct use of the look
The gaze is the main non-verbal resource available to human beings for the purpose of transmitting what they desire. It is for this reason that our eyes have an extensive sclera (the “white part” of the visible eyeball), which provides a massive volume of information by notably accentuating the rest of the elements that constitute them (the iris, the pupil, etc.).
The eyes are the first point of the face to which attention is directed, something that is already observed during the first moments of life, and the gaze is the form (and background) that they adopt to show without words the emotions that are being felt. The control of this resource is of capital relevance, but it is not always easy to carry out . Staring can seriously disturb the interlocutor, but it can also transmit confidence or intimacy when a deep relationship has been forged with him/her.
8. Uses the body as a support
The body is one more communicative element, which can serve as a support for what is being said, supporting the verbal content with the gesticulation of both hands or other parts of it. There is evidence that the use of this resource differs in different cultures and that not only the meaning of each particular gesture varies, but also the degree to which it is involved as a visual aid.
The truth is that what we transmit with the body implies approximately 70% of the total message . This is the main reason why people prefer to deal with the most important issues face-to-face, rather than over the phone or through new technologies. With the body we deploy a series of small acts that contribute to informing, so we must learn to use the infinite tools that the body can provide.
9. Orient your body to your interlocutor
When we talk to someone it is important to establish a body position that transmits attention to what they are telling us, so that the continuity of the conversation is stimulated. Keeping the body oriented towards the other is essential, because if we divert it to a point in space where it is not present, we suggest that we are willing to cease contact with it (talking to another person with the body crooked and the head pointing towards them, for example).
When we are sitting facing each other, it can be interesting to subtly tilt the body forward, as this is an act that is usually perceived as one of total attentional projection (although this will have to be regulated if discomfort is felt). Other gestures, such as crossing our arms or taking advantage of the elements of space to shelter us from what we are listening to (an excessively wide table, for example), are usually perceived as disrupting communication.
10. Take care of your micro gestures
The micro gestures are described as subtle and fleeting affective configurations of the face , that happen immediately after having heard something that precipitates an emotional response, but that fade away leaving behind an inexpressive “poker face”. However, many people are able to capture this rapid phenomenon by reading between the lines what the other person really thinks about what they have been told (regardless of what they say in words).
Taking care of our micro gestures is a very important issue, but it has a great difficulty: are automatic and involuntary . That$0027s why they say a lot of what we think about each other. Even if we try to arrange the words to suggest something else, they reveal what we feel inside. The only way to deal with them is to strengthen the capacity to accept the other fully, as he or she is, overriding judgment as far as possible.
People who have a relationship of trust with each other tend to imitate each other in situations of social exchange. So, for example, they might take a sip from their glass at the same time, or adjust their body posture on the back when the other one does. In the case where there is an obvious disagreement between the positions, the opposite situation occurs: an avoidance of all gestural or positional coincidence.
This synchronicity can be used to our advantage in the context of our social interactions: if we want to “connect” with the other, we can subtly imitate what he decides to do through simple and natural gestures. It is an indirect way of stimulating a sense of agreement, which must be sustained and congruent with the verbal content of what is being conveyed.
12. Reinforce the positive aspects and obviate the negative ones
The Greenspoon effect is a resource that is used a lot with the aim of persuading the other person of some matter in which there is a discrepancy, or simply to stimulate a favourable mood while talking to him/her. It involves reinforcing with a nod (nodding “up and down”) or a subvocalization of approval (“ummm”) everything that is considered positive (an expression of optimism, for example), ignoring the negative (without gesticulating or reproaching).
By doing this we offer a covert social incentive, which increases the emission of phrases that are considered positive for the person or the relationship. We increase the latency of optimistic statements that the individual makes about himself, while minimizing the darker or more somber ones. This is a common technique in unstructured psychological interviews, but it can be put into practice on a daily basis.
13. Look for congruence between verbal and non-verbal
It is very important to take care that our body and our words are not in direct confrontation , because this would send a confusing message to the other (which tends to attribute more credibility to what is suggested by the gestures). This dissonance is frustrating (the gestures say one thing and the words another), especially when the receiver is someone who depends on us on an emotional level (like children, for example).
For a long time, it was even thought that this discrepancy was directly responsible for the psychosis, postulating that a dissonant interaction between mother and child in childhood would precipitate a state of confusion that would stand as the germ of such a disorder. At present, there is no evidence to support this hypothesis (double bond theory).
14. Smile genuinely
The smile, like the look, comes up very early in life. It has an obvious social function, as it awakens positive feelings in the other and is attractive to engage in interaction. However, not all smiles are sincere, far from it.
That which is genuine, resulting therefore from a spontaneous and sincere emotion, is called a Duchenne smile. It involves the activation of the zygomatic major and minor muscles (very close to the mouth), and also of the orbicularis of the eyelids.
That is why a smile is not only the curved and upward position of the lips , but it is accompanied by an expression in the eyes that is very difficult to fake. The use of a false smile lacks the gestural pattern of the real one, and is quickly identified as such. Since false smiles are often perceived as a sign of falseness or betrayal, they should be avoided as much as possible.
15. Watch out for physical contact
Physical contact is not a trivial matter. A person who can be considered a good speaker must be able to recognize the virtual physical limits of the person with whom he or she is interacting, in order to regulate distance and offer comfort. Because we all have a space around us that we only allow access to people we trust; so if someone who is not trust tries to get closer than necessary, we experience discomfort and/or displeasure.
This region is known as “intimate space” , it is beautiful with the skin and is different for each one, because it depends on the personality and the accumulated experiences. In relationships in which a sufficient basis of trust has not yet been formed, it is recommended that we limit ourselves to the “social space”, which is somewhat more separated from the body of the interlocutor (and from which one can speak without invading him/her). Only when the bond is strengthened, and a tendency to spontaneous approach is awakened, can we cross this invisible barrier.
16. Find a suitable place
Sometimes a wonderful conversation can be spoiled by being held in an inappropriate place . This can happen in the case that we want to communicate something intimate in a crowded space of people with whom we don$0027t have a relationship of trust, making the recipient of those words and the person who is broadcasting them uncomfortable.
In people who tend to argue on a recurring basis, it may be interesting to consensually choose a neutral space in which to display what they want to say with greater certainty. In case they tend to shout, it is useful to go to a cafeteria (or other similar place), as it is a busy place where the tendency to raise one$0027s voice is inhibited (out of pure social desirability).
17. Adapt to the rhythm or capabilities of the interlocutor
Not all the people we talk to have the same cognitive resources to understand the message we want to convey, or maybe even they have not developed mature skills to do so (young children).
In these cases it is necessary to have the ability to select the most useful words, so that the purpose of any conversation is satisfied : to transmit the ideas you have in your head to another person, in a clear way and without possibility of confusion.
The habit of reading provides us with the necessary lexical arsenal to improve the flexibility to the different areas in which a communicative situation can take place, and increases the richness with which we can express what we need.
18. Active listening
Active listening is a general disposition to receive the message of the other in which full acceptance of what he or she is telling is implicit, integrating it as a legitimate part of his or her life experience (without invalidating or judging). With this, spaces are created that open up the possibility of addressing issues of greater intimacy. This is one of the bases of friendship, and implies an unconditional and respectful embrace of what the other person is and feels.
19. Respect your turn to speak
Some people tend to hog the pace of the conversation almost entirely, so that the listener feels that they don$0027t have time to intervene and ends up losing interest in doing so. For this reason, it is essential to respect the turn to speak, so that the other person has the opportunity to nuance or contribute what he or she considers appropriate. Only in this way is it possible to develop a balanced and horizontal interaction .
20. Seeks agreement in a conflict
Often, during discussions where disagreement is noted in advance, the desire to reach agreement or consensus is not apparent at any time. In this case the purpose is none other than to strengthen one$0027s own position, resorting to a whole collection of arguments (of greater or lesser quality) to give strength to what is being said and/or to bombard the opponent$0027s opinion (often resorting to personal attacks or contempt for his ideas).
It is vital to be open to debate, and also to the possibility that the other can contribute something enriching . It is not a question of being permeable to all attempts of persuasion or dissuasion, but of having a good criterion for listening from respect. From this perspective it is possible that the adversary feels more comfortable and even interested in our reflections.
21. Allows you to wander
When a person we love has been through a serious setback, we may feel the need to talk to them to address their pain, or even resort to the sad strategy of taking the heat out of the matter. In these cases, however, the most useful thing is to allow the other person to simply talk : this will help them to organise their ideas in a more coherent way, detecting what resources they have available to deal with what has happened. Listening, sometimes, is better than intervening.
22. Be congruent with your emotions
All emotions have an experiential and an expressive component. The first refers to the way we feel them, and the second to the way we communicate them. For a true well-being it is elementary that both are aligned, so it is important to speak and act in a way that is coherent with what happens inside us (with a person of full confidence). The use of a mask, when prolonged for a long time, ends up becoming a very heavy burden.
23. Be prepared in advance
In the event that we are going to speak to a large audience about a particular issue, we may experience some degree of anxiety. It is a natural experience and unless it generates some really overwhelming emotion, it must be lived with acceptance. Every human being feels fear when submitting to a situation in which he could be judged , this is not a phenomenon exclusive to social phobia nor does it imply other psychopathologies.
One of the most important pieces of advice before speaking in public is to prepare well for the topic to be discussed, reviewing it in front of a mirror or videotaping our performance and showing it to others. In the latter case, people with excessive anxiety may find that the way they perceive themselves (“I$0027ve acted disastrously”) does not match reality, as they often judge themselves too harshly.
24. Take care of your appearance
If we speak in public often, it is essential to take special care of our appearance, because after all, it is our calling card (and first impression). Sometimes, an inadequate image precipitates negative judgments among those who listen to us, adversely conditioning the message we try to convey. Cleanliness, the clothes we choose and even how rested we may seem; all of them influence the process of evaluation .
And that$0027s because appearance, in the end, says a lot about us. Thus, the halo effect describes how from a concrete physical detail we tend to generalize a sequence of attributes that do not have to have a cause and effect relationship with it. To cite an example, many people consider that good-looking people are smarter and kinder than those who are not (and vice versa), even though they can easily reason that these two realities are unconnected.
25. Take care of your voice
People who speak for many hours each day must take time to care for their voice, as it is a tool whose excessive use can lead to an acute or chronic state of deterioration. Rest is fundamental, as it prevents alterations in the phonatory system that could prevent us from carrying out this activity normally.