Public speaking is a vital skill to have if you want to make a difference in the world. It is known as the foundation of leadership. We do it to establish authority, persuade people to our point of view, educate, inspire, and advance our careers and businesses.
But what about private speaking—the kind we do with family, friends, and neighbors? This is the kind of speaking you need to be a better parent, to have great relationships, to be a real friend or simply be someone who makes people stop and listen.
This holiday season when we can congregate again with people we love in the same room, private speaking may be a bit more challenging than before. More than a year of digital communication via voice, video, text, social media, and email have made our face-to-face interactions just a bit rusty.
During the pandemic, our most natural, powerful, and effective method of communication was supplanted by technology. Today, we still prefer to text, DM or email rather than talk with someone. We cancel dates and break off relationships that way. If we are a tad more courageous, we might send a voice memo. When we want to communicate, our first impulse is to reach for social media or a piece of technology and type instead of having natural conversations.
It’s time to change those habits. This year’s holiday gatherings are the perfect occasions to practice meaningful private speaking that connects hearts and minds and builds community.
You can practice speaking and listening with intention. Watch how your body language engages your listeners. And observe the non-verbal cues from your listeners when you speak. Are you making eye contact? Are you choosing your words carefully to convey sentiment and emotion? Are people responding to you with steady gazes, smiles, and open body posture?
You may find private speaking more difficult than public speaking. If you do a lot of speaking for business, exposing your “warm and fuzzy” side may not feel as comfortable. That’s even more reason to work on it. Private speaking will improve your public speaking. Whether you are leading a video conference, behind the lectern on a stage, or whispering words of kindness to your grandmother, it boils down to communicating and connecting genuinely with other human beings.
During the holidays, I urge you to:
- Call a relative you have not seen in some time if you cannot be together in person.
- Leave a short voicemail (yes, it still exists) but don’t leave it at that. Wait for the return call or try again until you get to speak with that person.
- Call an old girlfriend or boyfriend, or someone from your past you realize you still love.
- Mail a handwritten card or note with a personal message.
- Take a long walk with a visiting family member and catch up on your lives.
- Offer a toast in gratitude for the opportunity to gather in person again.
- Speak consciously from your heart. Avoid idle chatter.
- Listen with patience, interest and without judgment.
- When you speak and listen, make more eye contact than you normally would.
- Match your words with vocal tone and variety and expressive body language.
- Do more listening and receiving than talking and delivering.
Time is short. We need to flex the muscle of the art of conversation and reclaim our innate ability to communicate person to person.
Have a happy, healthy conversation-filled holiday season and a brilliant New Year.