Have you ever been in a conversation where you have an idea, but you just couldn’t find the right things to say? You started to blabber and stutter because it just doesn’t sound right, you know something is off. You ended up embarrassing yourself and failed to deliver the point you intended.
Then, only after the conversation has ended, you know exactly what to say. But it’s too late anyway. If you are familiar with this situation, it is time for a change.
A spoken sentence started as an idea. So first, what you need to overhaul is your thinking process.
A brilliant idea might turn into nonsense.
When we talk, we translate an idea into a point that we want to share across in the form of sentences. For the point to be easily understood by the listener, you have to translate the idea into a well-structured sentence, which is what most people usually fail to do.
Your mouth mumbles as your mind jumbles. Thoughts are wandering and jumping, trying to deliver the right thing. You look confused, and the listeners are certainly not amused.
Before you try to fix a problem, first you have to understand the problem. Ideas, or things that you want to say, they come randomly. They come in the form of words, images, flashes of memories, lingering scents, or anything that your brain can interpret. They don’t come in order, nor do they come in solid and exact structures.
Big picture of the process.
Transferring ideas to someone else is a process of assembling the puzzle pieces into meaningful sentences and articulating them with your mouth. So how do you learn to design a well-structured sentence in the split-second time you have — right before you open your mouth?
Yes, anything. If you think reading a whole book is too time consuming, read essays. If that’s still too much, read articles. Heck, even just reading a tweet is fine. The point is to read a lot. Read comic books if you will.
The purpose is to broaden your vocabulary and learn how other people structure their sentences. By looking at how other people express their thoughts into words, you’ll learn new ways of doing so. You will be accustomed to clear and concise sentences. You’ll be able to notice if a text is easy to understand, or if it’s plain nonsense.
Reading is especially useful if you are speaking a foreign language. In my case, English is a second language, so reading books helps me understand words that I used to question.
Once you are used to reading, you would realize that everyone has different ways of expressing themselves. Reading enhances your exposure to ideas, words, sentences, and phrases that are previously novel to you.
Let’s take “Thank you” as an example. Here are some different ways to say thank you:
Expressing something in a lot of different ways would help you engage your audience. Instead of saying the same words repeatedly, you can change the sentence structure and make it less monotonous. This way, your audience will not lose interest in you.
By using Twitter and Instagram to follow English-speaking people, I can understand slangs and phrases that they often use daily. I can learn how to talk in a more casual/friendly way. For example, I learned on Twitter that “alien” means foreign/unknown. Something that’s alien to me before 😝.
You’ve seen how other people do it. Now, it’s time for you to do it yourself. How do you implement your new knowledge? The easiest way is to write something. Writing is training your mind to think clear and concise. By writing something, you will learn to:
I can’t think of any more straightforward way to improve your thinking process. Again, like reading, you don’t need to write a book. Start small. Write a tweet, an article, an essay, then, if you will, a book. Remember, the purpose is to improve your thinking process.
In my experience, the most annoying people are the ones who say too much jargon. It’s either they are trying to look smart, or they don’t have a deep understanding of the topic. If you are like that, do yourself a favor — stop.
You may think that jargon, big words, or complicated sentences, make you sound smart. But when your conversation partner does not understand what you are talking about, you lost the point of having a conversation: to exchange ideas. To deliver a point.
Use simple words and short sentences that people would understand. Don’t overuse jargon.
All of the processes we’ve covered so far won’t mean anything if you fail to speak properly. If you feel like your pronunciation is not good, practice.
Learn to talk slow and calm. Make sure that you don’t mumble and stutter. Be confident, so people believe in what you are saying. Talk to yourself. Think out loud, literally. Listen to how people pronounce and speak. And if you don’t know how to pronounce something, use Google Translate.
By understanding how we think before we speak, you will be able to address what is wrong with your current thinking process.
Reading helps you learn new words, expressions, and sentence structures. Immersing yourself in online communities will give you ideas about how people use slang and phrases in their daily interactions. Writing makes you practice your sentence creation process to be clear and concise. And by keeping it simple, you focus on communicating clearly, not trying to look smart.
More often than not, your idea is not that bad. But the way you present the idea is not quite right. That is why people got confused and were not sure about your intentions. Your point got lost on the way and the people who listen just don’t get what you say.
This article is based on the conversations I had with friends and colleagues who’s having trouble in communicating with their peers.