Why do you want to be able to speak confidently at work? Do you feel your lack of confidence is holding you back from a promotion or pay raise? Or, is it because people who communicate well seem to have a big advantage over the people who don’t?
If you’re like me, there have been many times…after meetings, after conversations with supervisors or coworkers…that I wish I had said something better than I did. I believe I missed out on some opportunities early in my career because I didn’t feel confident saying what I really thought or felt.
I’ve learned some important lessons since then, which have helped me become a much more confident communicator. This article shares some of the most important tips you can use, right away, to speak more confidently in your workplace.
This information is part of the Talk More Confidently video course and guide. You can receive these lessons free, delivered to your inbox, by signing up here.
The Benefits of Speaking Confidently at Work
As you improve your ability to communicate your ideas to people you work with, it may be the single most important career skill you can ever develop. If you think about it, some of the highest paid people in your business may not be the people who have the most knowledge or technical skill.
As I’ve written about before, communication skills are consistently (over several decades) among what employers want most in potential employees. And effective, confident communication skills are one of the most important abilities great leaders can have.
Chances are that you’re reading this article now because you already know how being able to speak more confidently at work is going to benefit your career: more respect, more money, better opportunities. So let’s look at how you can start talking more confidently…
Speak Honestly and Clearly….
Speaking honestly at work means a lot more than just telling the truth, it means talking in a way that reflects your personality. You want to be clear about what you think and feel, and try to avoid just saying what you believe other people want to hear.
Don’t use words or phrases that you wouldn’t use naturally. Some people think they can sound more impressive by using big words or jargon, but they usually come across as being fake or insincere when they try to do this.
The same goes for the kind of voice you use when you talk to coworkers. Don’t try to fake confidence or certainty by talking louder or more forcefully. Just talk in your natural voice in a measured, steady pace (about 125-150 words per minute).
Being honest about what you say and how you say it will help you feel more confident when you talk to people at work. You don’t feel the fear and insecurity that come from being artificial.
…But Don’t Be Insensitive
Being honest does not mean you should be rude or insensitive when you talk to people at work. Remember that if you don’t agree with someone’s ideas, you can still find the good in those ideas, call it out, and then present your ideas and reasons for why there might be a better idea. Don’t attack people personally; keep your conversation focused on the ideas, and what’s best for the business.
Doing this will help you speak more assertively. Focusing on ideas as opposed to the people presenting them will help you present your own ideas more confidently, knowing you’re concerned more with what is right, as opposed to who is right.
Talk More Confidently by Talking Less
Do you know people who seem to talk a lot but who actually say very little of real importance? In your job, you may know people like this and sense that they’re just trying to pretend and even hide their lack of real knowledge and experience. They think that having an opinion about something makes them an authority on it. Don’t be that kind of person.
Realize that people who talk too much end up being ignored or avoided by other people. You want to speak only when you really have something worthwhile to say. If you practice this habit, people will learn to listen to you more, because you’ve developed a reputation of giving a lot of thought to what you’re are saying.
As this reputation of saying meaningful things gets more widespread, you’ll feel more confident because you know people listen to you and are very interested in what you have to say.
Do Your Homework
You can speak more confidently at work when you have actual data to back up what you say. Again, simply having an opinion on something does not give you any authority, but when you have real information to share, you are seen as much more credible. When you’re seen as more credible, it helps you speak more confidently.
When you know, in advance, what a meeting or conversation are going to be about, take time to research those things so you can feel prepared to talk confidently about them. Remember where you got your information from so that you can refer to it.
Speak More Confidently Using Stories
I took an interpersonal communications course in college and the instructor asked me to come talk to him in his office after one class. He asked me to tell him about my career plans and what my professional goals were.
As I talked, he never looked right at me…he kept looking around the room, never looking me in the eyes. When I stopped talking, he asked how that made me feel as he looked all around the room while I spoke. I told him I felt he wasn’t listening…that it made me uncomfortable. He said he was listening, and repeated several things I said to prove it.
But he pointed out that people need to know we’re listening to them…we need to make regular eye contact to communicate they have our attention. He pointed out that I rarely looked people in the eye when they talked to me, although he knew I was listening to what they said. He challenged me to make a deliberate effort to make better eye contact with people when they spoke, that it was a crucial, non-verbal communication skill I needed to develop.
When you communicate your ideas using personal experiences, or by using stories which reinforce your ideas, you talk much more confidently. You become less focused on yourself and more engaged in what you want people to see and understand.
Using personal experiences to represent your ideas helps you become less self-conscious; less worried about what words to use and what other people think of you.
Think of experiences you have had in your career that have taught you important lessons about the work you do. Write out those experiences and practice telling them to other people. Keep a simple work journal where you record the details of new experiences you have.
Speak Professionally, not Pretentiously
Remember that what you talk about, and the words you use, need to be appropriate for the workplace. Some people forget where they are at sometimes and use inappropriate or offensive words and phrases.
You’ll feel more confident speaking to people if you are certain they are not going to be offended by something you say, so remember to be respectful and diplomatic as you talk to other people.
Sign Up for the Free Guide and Videos
There are more things you can do to speak more confidently in your workplace. I go into more detail and offer even more strategies in the free guide and video series, Talk More Confidently, so signup for those free resources to start improving your professional communication skills right away.
Important Points and Take-Aways
So here’s a summary of what we’ve discussed…those things you can do to speak more confidently at work:
- Be yourself when you talk, be honest without being insensitive to other people.
- Focus more on the quality of what you say instead of the quantity.
- Be prepared by studying and researching; develop some authority to speak on a topic, not just an opinion.
- Use stories and experiences, as much as possible, to communicate what you want people to understand and remember.
- Learn to talk diplomatically at work; don’t say things that might make people offended or uncomfortable.
- To learn more about communicating confidently in the workplace, sign up to receive the free guide and video series: Talk More Confidently.