I’ve been working with a vocal coach to calm my anxiety and improve my speaking skills. Her name is Ita Olsen, and our work is paying dividends. When I was in Cuba, a colleague told me that I had a melodious voice.
That colleague set up an orphanage in The Congo and is trying to protect kids from river blindness and HIV. So, uh, yeah, I have a beautiful voice when I talk about my HR blog.
(Christ, that was something to consider as we toured the run-down tenements of Havana.)
But I’ll take the compliment on my voice. Not only is my speech smoother, but I’ve noticed an improvement in my marriage. Before, my husband would hear about 22% of my one-sided conversation.
(Let’s face it, that’s marriage.)
Now I would say that he listens to 49% of my shrewin’ since I started working on my communication skills.
The secret? I’m using fewer words.
I’m a writer. My communication style is established. I like to write stories and revise my sentences before I share something important. But writers like me are screwed because we get one shot to speak to someone. Real-time revisions don’t happen.
So that’s why I’ve been working with Ita Olsen to breathe, think, and speak correctly without a lot of pressure on myself.
It’s not easy to catch myself from babbling, but it’s getting better. I’m using shorter sentences and fewer conjunctions. Just because I’m using fewer words doesn’t mean that I’m getting less attention from my husband. In fact, I’m getting more. He is asking clarifying questions because he has more opportunities to jump into the conversation.
It’s sorta nice. Well, nice for my husband not to hear me take five minutes to tell a unique, thirty-second story. Nice for me, too, because he’s paying attention.
(Marriage. Don’t get me started.)
Fewer words help a lot in life.
So here are two ways that I’m training myself to use fewer words. The first method? I’m recording quick anecdotes on my voice memo app, listening to myself, and practicing those stories using different word choices. I’m identifying where I pause (or don’t) and then making different choices. If you do that a few times, you’ll hear opportunities to use a period at the end of a sentence and stop talking.
I’m also using post-it notes to remind myself to use fewer words during conference calls. This article began with a photo of me being inspired by my intentional notes. Okay, it was a picture of me making out with little Miss Roxy.
(But I’m using fewer words.)
Listen, I’m communicating more effectively with my husband and clients. Progress is possible. You can improve, too. It just takes a vocal coach, a little practice, and a willingness to be a good student.
Fewer words, baby. That’s one lesson from Ita that works, and she’s not even paying me to write this. I’m paying her for these lessons. Totally worth it!