What are you talking about?

White Cat Coaching TalkingMany years ago, before I got the hang of speaking in public, I would often write out my content and talk it through in my head. I figured that talking it out was a great way of practicing. And, I could do it anywhere, any time. Traveling to work on the tram, on my bike, out on a run, in the supermarket. The list goes on. The problem was, it was all in my head. And the very first time my carefully crafted content was said out aloud was the actual moment in front of an audience. How did this go? Well, public speaking wise, not too bad. But not great. Where this really played out badly, however, was in difficult conversations. Yep, similar to public speaking, I used to decide what I was going to say, practice it in my head, then have the conversation. Now we’re not just talking about your every day “hey, how was your weekend?” conversations. We’re talking about “hey, I was thinking I’m not happy working here anymore”, or “hey, I’d like a pay rise” type conversations. These are hard. And just like getting up in front of a crowded room to deliver prepared content, they are just as important to rehearse.

Talking out loud

I have since learned to always practice out loud. Both for public speaking AND difficult conversations. Because when something is just in your head, it is exactly that. In your head. Those precious words have not had the opportunity to make their way outside yet, and our voices have a nasty habit of betraying our underlying feelings of doubt, fear and other emotions bubbling under the surface. For example, asking for a pay rise. You could have the best words and the best reasons, but if there is even a tiny bit of self doubt in your head, your voice will betray you. In Australia it’s a double wammy, as our accent naturally rises at the end of a sentence. And when that happens too much, people hear doubt and uncertainty.

And this is why we practice. Have you got something to say? Something that has been bumping around in your head for a few days, weeks or months? Be brave and say it. As Margie Warrell says in her book Stop Playing it Safe, “Issues that aren’t talked out are acted out, exacting a steep price on your relationships, your success and your life”. We know how important it is to speak our minds, and what is even ┬ámore important is making sure we’re fully prepared for that dry mouth, butterflies in stomach feeling. Practice is the key to nailing that difficult conversation.

Practice makes perfect

In Chris Hadfield’s book AnAstronaut’s Guide to Life On Earth, I was amazed (but to be honest, not surprised) at the amount of drills astronauts do. They practice for every eventuality, every potential disaster, that could happen in space. While our difficult conversations have nowhere near the danger a small oxygen leak on a spaceship has, our instinct for survival does not know the difference. So our upcoming performance review with a boss we have problems with can be every bit as frightening as the prospect of running out of oxygen thousands of miles from Earth. So just like an astronaut will practice for an oxygen leak, so must we practice for OUR events – big or small. This will mean we are prepared for anything, and that part of our brain that worries for our survival will relax, reducing fear and doubt. This will in turn mean that our voice is unlikely to squeak unexpectedly and put doubt in the mind of the person we are talking to.

Take some Talking Action

Do you have an important conversation coming up? Take action and practice talking it out aloud. Of course, you probably won’t want to do this on public transport, but what you can do is practice at home and record yourself. Then listen. Then practice again until you are confident you will not only nail the conversation but get the outcome you desire.

How did you go with this? Let me know by commenting or sharing. Need further help? Feel free to contact me. Helping people like you do this is my passion.