Communicate with confidence

During one of the brainstorming sessions for a product, my team and I had gathered in large meeting room, almost like a board room. My boss was someone who heard out everyone before speaking. As we took turn one by one to voice our opinion and apprehension about the product, a colleague of mine, a guy with a loud voice who regularly interrupted everyone with his own comments, was becoming increasingly disruptive that day. At long last, my boss just stood up from his seat and began addressing each one by name and asking their opinion. That kind of gave the clear message that this is it. It was smooth-sailing after that. 

Another time, an editor of a reputed newspaper was in a quandary about publishing the news of the electoral loss of the political party that he supported. Instead of admitting to his party’s loss, he phrased the headline by saying that his party is gearing up for the next elections. That not only held his esteem high in the eyes of the readers, it conveyed the message strongly that his party would not take this defeat lying down. Several readers came out to appreciate this message which I recall had become a much debated issue. 

Communication is considered a two-way activity between the transmitter and the receiver. However, at times, the person trying to convey something to the other(s) is not successful in doing so because s/he lacks confidence. This is especially crucial in businesses when managers, department heads, VPs and CEOs have to routinely communicate with employees, management members, shareholders, regulatory bodies and media. Any hint of lack of confidence can adversely impact the person’s and in effect the company’s reputation and credibility. A key aspect of communication is that a person’s mindset and level of conviction or confidence travels much before the actual message is transmitted. Which effectively means that if your message is not delivered with confidence, it may lack the punch and will not be received the way you intended it to. 

Now imagine scenarios when the person initiating the communication lacks confidence in delivering the message as in 

  • A CEO conveying crucial policy decisions that could potentially change the direction of  a company
  • A parent conveying something that spells discipline for a teenager
  • Communicating with your employees in times of distress
  • A political leader communicating in volatile times (like the pandemic or war or natural calamity)
  • Doctors, Airplane Captains, Army personnel or Leaders need to be clear and confident in whatever they say or convey to others because a lot is at stake not just in what they say but also how they say it

Why do we lack confidence while communicating?

Communication is all about holding the other person’s attention all the time till you have (verbally or non-verbally) conveyed what you intended to so that he has received in exact same way. At times, the initiator lacks confidence when:

  1. He is not prepared for delivering the message
  2. The body language is not in sync with the message being conveyed
  3. He is afraid of the response from the other
  4. He is not convinced about the matter himself
  5. The audience is not receptive
  6. The speaker is provoked by the audience and he buckles under that pressure
  7. Lacks self-esteem or has negative self esteem

7 Practical Tips to Communicate Confidently

The key is to be convinced about what you are saying. When you lack conviction, it shows. 

In my experience, I’ve found the below tips to be practical, doable and quite helpful to anyone who wants to improve their ability to communicate with confidence:

    1. Prepare well: Lack of preparation puts you in an inconvenient situation where the audience recognizes your talk lacks steam and just loses focus or interest or both. If you’re communicating with unknown audiences or in hostile conditions, practice what you intend to say to avoid any misadventures with words or tone. 
    2. Pay attention to body language: Stand straight, hold your head high, shoulders parallel to the ground, feet steady and hands with open palms. Don’t move unnecessarily and make direct eye contact with others.
    3. Be respectful even when you’re criticizing: The tone of our words speaks more than the words themselves and is picked up faster than words. Always sound respectful about anything and anybody you’re speaking about. 
    4. Know your audience well: Understanding who you’re going to communicate with helps in framing the message accordingly. Not everyone understands irony, humor, sarcasm, metaphors and the like. Prepare your message based on how the receiver will perceive it. 
    5. Control your emotions while communication: Keep your message to the point and absolutely avoid any personal opinion, negative words or biases to creep in. That would sometimes lead to further problems which you’d never want
    6. Look out for hints: The people receiving your message keep dropping hints about your message. Subtle change in body language like nodding or tilting of the head, raised eyebrows or pushing the chair further and listening with rapt attention tells you that your message is making an impact. On the contrary, sitting laid back, looking away or getting distracted means you have lost their attention. The key is to listen well before you utter your first word. 
    7. Never get influenced by reactions: As you communicate with others, it is possible that they will try to intervene, stop you, counter you with arguments, deny what you’re saying or disrupt you. Always stick to your stance and never waver. Confidence comes from within and must be unshakeable at all times. 

A lot depends upon how you communicate as a leader to your stakeholders. People who communicate confidently earn the respect and credibility of their team. When you speak only as much as required and not a word extra, people are eager to listen to what you intend to convey. A good communicator goes a long way in becoming a trusted leader. 

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