Why is it so hard to talk?

Let’s consider two possible reasons why saying what’s on your mind can be so difficult. Thankfully the solution to both is the same.

Overabundance of Perspective

Masses love soundbites and bullet points; but truths are hardly independent.

The more you understand, the more connections you see between, behind, and beneath each point you hope to make.

You open your mouth to speak, but your thoughts are awash with so many other key insights, all just as foundational to your original idea.

Discomfort with Your Voice

We all know those who love to hear themselves talk. They’re the ones that take up hours each morning at work sharing endless details of their latest episodic adventures. If given the choice, they wouldn’t trade the drama they complain about for anything. They fill in every silence in meetings with . . . well, noise.

But when you open your mouth to speak, you instantly become clairvoyant: You read in every “pained” expression just how ugly, confused, and boring you must sound.

The Solution

Speaking isn’t the same as writing, especially these days when thoughts in text can be reshuffled and simplified to perfection through countless re-edits (and all supporting points conveniently linked to).

The key to speaking well is representation, not exhaustion. To explain is not the goal, but to show. Successful communicators use tone, expression, and body language to carry simple illustrations and anecdotes, painting clearly recognizable pictures that quickly tie ideas and concepts back to real human experience.

In speaking, less is more. But less takes practice. You need to discover and get used to the way you say certain things.

And practice is also the only way to confront and overcome that sick “red light” feeling that would have you conclude (before you even open your mouth) that you’ll sound terrible and fail to get your point across.

When you’re used to how you say things, your focus is pulled from realms of anxious assumption back into the moment of your “performance” so you can give it your all and shine.

By the way, there’s nothing wrong with saying the same points the same way, even to the same audience, over time. Your audience will actually start to enjoy knowing where you tend to go when they hear you launch into, say, the cat-with-frozen-paws story (or whatever it is).

As your speaking skills develop, the way you tell and connect each point or story will deepen, simplify, grow more nuanced, and touch ever closer to recognizable experience. In other words, you’ll get better and better at connecting with your hearers; and isn’t connection what any art form (including speech) is all about?

Here’s a video where I speak a little more about speaking : )


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