How To Speak So Others Will Listen


All of us communicate all the time. Even if you are not a teacher, preacher or corporate communicator we all have various opportunities during our day to communicate. I like what The Bible says in Colossians 4:6, “Be pleasant and hold their interest when you speak the message.” That’s pretty good advice. When we talk, when we speak, when we communicate to others, be interesting. Here are 5 tips that will help all of us increase the interest of our listeners when we communicate.

1. Stories
When you tell a story people listen. The better you tell the story the more engaged your audience becomes. When I listen to great communicators there is always a story. I find myself leaning into the message, literally leaning in, right to the edge of my seat. I know when I am speaking to an audience I can see a noticeable difference in the way they engage non-verbally. They feel more alert and “with” me.

2. Humor
A good friend of mine and mentor, Ed McGuigan, would tell me. “Craig, if you can get your audience to laugh you will gain 5 more minutes of their time.” Humor and the corresponding response, laughter, is a strong emotionally intelligent signal. “Laughter offers a uniquely trustworthy sign of friendliness...laughing represents the shortest distance between two people because it instantly interlocks the limbic systems of the brain.”1 That’s science speak for “we are all emotionally connected through humor.”

3. Cadence
Cadence is the “rhythmic flow of a sequence of sounds.”2 It involves your verbal tempo, physical motion and quiet pause. The most difficult for most communicators and teachers is the quiet pause. The quiet pause is to allow the audience or group to absorb the moment of a story or humorous anecdote. If you want to really learn communicative cadence then take look online at different comedians. The two who do this well are Brian Regan and Jeff Allen.
Example Brian Regan
Example Jeff Allen

4. Inflection
Inflection is the change in pitch or tone of your voice. Parents know this concept well. There is a difference in inflection from the first time you tell your child to take out the trash and the fifth time. A communicator who uses the same tone or “monotone” can be difficult to listen to. I don’t believe you can tell a powerful story in a monotone voice and have it resonate with your audience in a compelling way. Let your emotion and passion come through in your communication. If you want to hear a great example of inflection listen to my favorite NHL announcer, Mike “Doc” Emrick.

5. Awareness
Occasionally teachers and communicators get caught up into thinking that everything we are saying is interesting. When the audience is watching the clock they are not listening to us. One important component that is often overlooked in communication, especially communication to an audience, is being able to read the room. If the audience is not listening and we have done everything we can up to that point then start dancing, move to the back of the room, have them stand up, whatever it takes to reengage them. Be aware of where your audience is emotionally.

I like the reminder in Proverbs 16:23 NASB, “The heart of the wise instructs his mouth and adds persuasiveness to his lips.” If we are truly wise when we communicate we will do our best to keep learning and instruct our mouth on what to say. To really make a difference and communicate to change lives be persuasive in what you say. It will make the difference in what you say and how you say it.

Do you have a tip on how to communicate clearly and hold peoples interest? I would love to hear it!

1 Laughter is involuntary: Meredith Small, “More Than the Best Medicine,” Scientific American, August 2000, page 24

2 ( Accessed 6-3-13

Photo Attribution: Jasmin Awad