Imagine the power you would have if you could say brave things when courage is called for, wise things when wisdom is needed, and sensible things when lunacy prevails. Consider the influence you would enjoy if you could find the right way to inspire everyone you spoke with. And calculate the embarrassment, pain, and anxiety you would save yourself if you NEVER said anything mean, rash, or stupid.
How would people think of you, compared to how they think of you now? How much faster would you achieve your goals? How much better would your relationships be?
There is a simple way you can become a powerful and persuasive speaker. It takes no special talent. Only honesty and willpower.
Promise yourself that from this moment forward you will say nothing but true things.
By “true things,” I mean phrases that communicate something useful or sincere. “Useful” means that it is helpful to the person or people you are speaking to. “Sincere” means that it represents your best and kindest feeling about the issue.
Much easier said than done. For me, the impulse to just say what’s on my mind is sometimes irresistible.
That said, here are some ideas on how to resist the impulse to say the impulsive thing and reject the half-assed phrases that are its byproducts. I recommend the following:
1. Before you say anything, take a one-second pause. Make this a habit. It will seem odd at first but will become natural very quickly. Others who know you will initially see this posture as being artificial but will eventually learn to respect it.
2. While you are pausing, ask yourself: “How do I feel about this?” “What do I really think?” “Do I know exactly what I want to say here?”
3. Then, say something that represents your best and truest opinion and/or feeling. Hint: In speaking, as in writing, less is usually more.
Most of the time, I must tell you, I don’t do this. As a result, I often blurt out something that is wrong or bad or misleading or foolish. But, sometimes, I give myself that extra second and say the right thing — and it usually feels very good.
You don’t need to have a master’s degree in English to be well-spoken. You can do very well with no formal training in grammar and a limited vocabulary. What is required is a desire to say true and just things and a commitment to speak carefully.
I know a handful of people who have mastered the art of speaking only good phrases. Some of them are highly educated, and some are not. (One never got out of high school.) The one thing they have in common is that they seem to really care about what they say. They value their words and put their sentences together as one would string precious jewels.
When you talk to someone like that, you have the feeling your conversation is important. You listen to his comments more carefully and consider your responses more closely.
People who speak well are usually held in high esteem — not only by those who care about communication but also by those who don’t give much thought to speaking. Having that kind of effect on the people around you will make you better at everything you do.