Speaking the Truth So Others Will Hear
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak;
courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
To find the Truth, you must practice intellectual humility and develop both creativity and intellectual habits of mind. Receptive and expressive communication are the last pieces of the puzzle. Once you have summoned the courage it takes to listen to others and have heard what they have to say, you can then begin to process it and see how it fits in with the information you have already uncovered. Now you are ready to muster your “courage to stand up and speak,” as Churchill said. Being able to assertively share your ideas in a manner that is both persuasive and respectful is an artform. Let’s take another look at the four types of communication- verbal, nonverbal, visual and written- to better increase your chances of having your voice heard and considered. It’s not just what you have to say, but also how you say it, that determines how your ideas will be accepted.
Expressive Communication Skills
Verbal communication includes more than receptive skills but also speaking abilities that include how you deliver your message. Jamie Birt in Indeed.com Career Guide suggests these ways to improve your speaking skills:
· Know your audience. Before even beginning to speak, you must know what experiences your audience brings with them. For example, are your listeners peers or executives? Are you “Preaching to the choir” or “Talking to the hand cause the ears ain’t listening?” This would let you know whether to use informal or formal language as well as any jargon that may go along with your ideas. This consideration allows you to tailor your information to better keep listeners engaged and receptive to what you have to say.
· Take time to gather your thoughts. Don’t be afraid to take pauses to collect your thoughts. Silence in a conversation may make many feel uncomfortable, but it is in this silence that you can organize your thoughts into a clear message. A pause also shows your audience that you are being thoughtful in your points. Conversely, be sure to allow others their pauses as they speak as it shows them your interest in hearing what they have to say.
· Convey your message succinctly. Your audience will most likely have a short attention span, so it is important to get across your main ideas as clearly as you can using as few words as possible. By keeping complex sentences to a minimum and including only relevant information, your focused message will help ensure your ideas are received with little confusion.
Nonverbal communication is important to correctly use as you try to share your ideas with others. According to the HelpGuide.org staff, properly using nonverbal signals helps you connect with others as well as reinforce the meaning of your words for better understanding. Here are some ways to engage the listener from both HelpGuide.org and Indeed.com:
· Invite the listener in. Some of the same habits you employ when listening to a person are also important when speaking to them. In order to make your listener feel comfortable and welcome, be sure to have an open stance, arms that are uncrossed, and maintain eye contact with the person. You may want to try sitting on the edge of your seat (but not too close to the person with whom you are speaking) to bring them into the conversation.
· Use body language to emphasize a point. Body language can help your emphasize your main ideas. Holding up the number of fingers that coincide with a detail in your message or using a sweeping gesture to highlight another idea are examples of this kind of body language. Of course, there are numerous other examples depending on the idea you are trying to convey. As a caution, try not to use any gestures that could be misconstrued as an insult depending on the background of your listener.
· Use what they see and hear to your advantage. Facial expressions can help you communicate your ideas as well. Smiling, using your eyebrows, and tilting your head are all examples of ways you can highlight the points you are making. Facial expressions are especially important during a virtual conversation. Also, keep your tone of voice positive. While talking is verbal communication, the tone of the voice is considered nonverbal. A positive tone helps to maintain energy throughout the conversation. And no matter what, don’t raise your voice to respond to an idea. Just like sending an email in all CAPS, shouting at someone does not encourage discourse that is productive.
Visual communication can really help to make your point you when trying to convey your message. Jackie Huddle from Indiana University at Bloomington shares an infographic that generally outlines how you can determine if a visual image is needed and the type and message it needs to convey.
These questions should be considered as a starting point as you begin the decision-making process about the need for visual media, and if so, what it should be. Depending on the situation, there may be more or fewer considerations to make. Jackie Huddle: Defining an Image Need. January 16, 2024.
Beyond determining if a visual resource is needed, Huddle goes on to suggest ways to use these images and graphics effectively.
· Consider your audience and the environment. Is your visual understandable by the people to whom you are speaking? Determine if you need more background information in the image caption. In addition, consider if your image will be readable given the place you will be sharing the information. Will those in the back of a large lecture hall be able to see it? Are the colors/font readable for your audience.
· Make sure your image underscores your message. Do not include a visual just to repeat a point or fill space. Any visual media you use should be purposeful in that it adds more detail to the point(s) you are trying to make. If a point can be said with text and a visual will not enhance the meaning, consider not using it.
· Be sure you have permission to use. Much of the visual media you may come across may be copyrighted, so be sure to obtain permission before using it. If you cannot find an appropriate image for your needs, you may need to look for open access ones or create your own visual. There are some online AI programs that could assist in the creation of such images. Harry Guiness in a Zapier post reviews several of these programs. Magic Media by Canva is another program that can create both images and videos.
Written communication that is effective is clear, understandable, and contains all the relevant and correct information needed to share your message. The Indeed.com Editorial Team shared these tips on becoming an effective writer:
· Clearly state your main point. At the outset, clearly state the main point or objective of your writing. You may wish to provide overarching concepts that you will include further in your essay that support and ensure focus on the objective. Reiterate your main point in the conclusion of your writing to bring closure and cement your objective.
· Stay focused and know your audience. Choose words that reflect your audience’s experience and avoid irrelevant information. Include information that you know to be true and that support your main idea. Limit the number of complex sentences as they tend to slow the reader down.
· Use the correct tone and voice. Choose the correct tone or feeling for your communication as it can make your writing more effective. Depending on who the readers are and your purpose, you need to determine if you need to use formal or informal word choice. Also be sure to use active voice as it strengthens your writing and makes it easier to understand. An example of passive voice is, “This data was collected last month.” Active voice can more clearly communicate that statement as, “I collected the data last month.”
Author Robin S. Baker sums up her advice to those seeking to share their ideas with others: “Practice being very clear and direct with your communication. Look people in their eyes when you talk to them and take your time while speaking your words. This makes a person listen and truly hear what you have to say. This also commands more respect. What you have to say matters.” By adopting these practices, you will be in a good position to be heard and fully understood in your journey to uncover the truth and share it.
(Title image created by Julie Seymour using Media Magic by Canva's AI image generator. 2/01/2024)