As speakers we spend a great deal of time worrying about the importance of public speaking and what we are going to be saying the next time that we give a speech. We think about our topic. We mull over the words that we’ll use. Finally, we lay out the sequence that we want to use in order to share our thoughts with our audience. This is a lot of work. However, it turns out that we may be missing a key part of what it takes to deliver a great speech. The way that we speak affects how our audience listens. In fact, how they listen, affects how we speak. Just exactly how are we supposed to make use of this circle of communication?
The Circle Of Communication
The mistake that none of us must make is to for a moment to think that giving a speech is a one way path. The idea that I speak and you listen is not what is going on when we deliver a speech. It turns out that communication is much more like a circle than a linear path. The way that I speak will have an effect on how my audience chooses to listen to me. The way that my audience chooses to listen to me will have an impact on how I choose to speak.
My speaking and your listening are forever in a spiral towards some undefined center. They are forever intertwined and interrelated. The question that each of as speakers has to be able to answer is will this circle of communication lead us to a place of understanding or somewhere where there is only disconnect? As speakers we all have a good understanding of the importance of speaking. However, most of us don’t have a good understanding of the importance of listening.
Listening is often referred to as being a “silent skill”. Speakers need to understand that we need to become effective listeners if we want to be able to be effective communicators. The problem that speakers have is that all too often we spend our time thinking about how we’ll be sending to our audience and too little time thinking about how we’ll be receiving from them. Sadly, many of us have simply become personal broadcasters. If we want to fix this problem, then we need to take steps to understand what listening is. We need to become expert listeners.
How To Become An Expert Listener
The most important thing that a speaker can realize is that listening is not something that “just happens”. Instead, we have to understand that hearing is something that is automatic. However, listening is something that we need to learn how to do. Our brain plays a role when we are listening. We recognize patterns in what we are hearing and then we can do two different things. The first is to pay attention to what is being said and then we can ascribe meaning to the sounds that we are hearing. When we do this, we are making meaning from the sounds that we are hearing. We need to understand that listening is an active process, a skill, which we can develop.
When we listen, we are always listening through a set of filters. We process the words that are flowing in though our ears though filters that are based on language, values, culture, attitudes, beliefs, assumptions, etc. Because many of these filters are so strongly held by us, they can cause challenges to our ability to listen to someone. Our filters are key to our listening because we use them to determine what we want to listen to and what we are going to allow it to mean to us.
We need to understand that listening is a very personal experience. How we listen is unique to us. Nobody else listens the same way that we do. As speakers we need to understand this and realize that not everyone in our audience is going to be listening to us like we do. When we become aware that we are using filters to listen to the world around us, we can start to make changes to it. When we make changes to our filters, then all of a sudden how we listen will also change.
What All Of This Means For You
Speakers who create and deliver speeches spend a great deal of time thinking about the words that they will be saying in order to share the benefits of public speaking. What most of us don’t do is spend a great deal of time thinking about is how our audience is going to be listening to us. What this means is that we are not going to be aware that how we speak affects how our audience listens to us. Likewise, how our audience listens to us will affect how we speak. The end result of this is that in order to become better speakers, we need to become better listeners.
In order to become better speakers, we need to understand that listening is a skill. Listening is different from hearing. Because listening is a skill, if we work at it we can become better at it. We are always listening through filters. We use language, culture, etc. to allow ourselves to process the words that we are hearing. Speakers need to understand that everyone listens differently. The good news is that we can change our filters and by doing so we can change how we listen.
In order to give truly good speeches, we need to make changes. We need to have a better understanding of how our audience is hearing our speech. In order to do this we first have to become better listeners ourselves. If we take the time to understand how we are listening and then make the effort to change how we listen, we can become better speakers.
Question For You: How can you identify what filters you are using when you listen to someone?
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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!
What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
As speakers, the one thing that all of us want to do is to become better. We may go about doing this in a number of different ways. We may take courses. We may watch videos of other speakers. We may have our friends listen to our speeches and then provide us with feedback. However good all of this is, in the end we may still not be getting all of the feedback that we need in order to become better speakers. What we really need to be able to do is to look at ourselves. We need to see how we look and how we act while we are delivering our speech. In order to do this, we need to see ourselves on camera.