Every single one of us has felt the pressure of saying the wrong thing, and the fear that we will do it when it matters most to our careers. Success in the workplace depends on closing this gap and being a clear communicator. One of the best ways to learn a lot fast: TED talks from experts in communication.
Each expert has different methods on how to accomplish this—from changing your vocabulary to changing how you say your name — but the one thing that all these speakers have in common? They all believe that listening is the answer to being a better speaker. Here are words you can include in your meetings that will transform your professional relationships:
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1) “Tell me more”
Dr. Mark Holder believes that his time as a happiness researcher has given him insight into how we nurture our human relationships. In his TEDx talk, Dr. Holder cited interviews with hospital patients where researchers found three simple words that would trigger stronger relationships with patients: tell me more.
“When you’re in a personal relationship talking to somebody and you lean forward and you look them in the eye and you say, ‘tell me more,’ it means not I’m not going on to my own story. I’m not interrupting you, Your story is valid and it means something to me,” Dr. Holder said.
Dr. Holder believes these three words along with “What happens next?” work because they show that we’re listening. We’re not just extracting information out of the interaction, we’re validating our conversation partner’s feelings and emotions. It’s a lesson we can use even if we’re not a science researcher.
2) “Thank you”
Dr. Laura Trice believes that we don’t ask for what we need. The life coach and consultant said that asking for our value to be recognized is stigmatized and it shouldn’t be. “Be honest about the praise that you need to hear,” Dr. Trice advised. Asking for praise makes us vulnerable but it also deepens our connections in our personal and professional lives.
3) “I’m not finished yet”
“I’m not finished yet” is not a phrase that vocal expert Laura Sicola actually recommends saying out loud, but it’s one that she recommends conveying in your tone.
Sicola says that we blunder introducing ourselves when we rush through saying our names, making it harder for our listeners to understand what we’re saying. Instead of blurting out our names, Sicola wants us to practice strategic tonality, so that the weight of our words have intention: “I want to start by letting my voice go up, up like this, on your first name as if to say, ‘I’m not finished yet,'” Sicola said. “And then at the top, we’ll have a little break, that little pause that will allow for a sound break to indicate word boundary, and then at our last name, we want to go down, let the pitch fall, as if to say, ‘And now I’m done.'”
This doesn’t mean adopting some inauthentic business voice, but learning how to adjust your tone depending on who is in the room. “The key is to recognize which parts of your personality need to shine through in a particular moment and how to transmit that through your voice and speech style,” Sicola said.
4) “Be interested in other people”
Radio host Celeste Headlee wants us to approach all of our conversations with this mantra in mind: be interested in other people. For Headlee, that means going with the flow, using open-ended questions, not repeating ourselves, and not equating our experiences with our conversation partner. Above all, Headlee recommended keeping our mouth shut with our assumptions and listening to what the other person has to say.
“I kind of grew up assuming everyone has some hidden, amazing thing about them. And honestly, I think it’s what makes me a better host,” she said in her TED talk. I keep my mouth shut as often as I possibly can, I keep my mind open, and I’m always prepared to be amazed, and I’m never disappointed.”
5) “I’m enough”
Through years of trial and error, researcher Brené Brown has found that showing vulnerability, the “courage to be imperfect,” is the key to being a resilient person who can weather anything life throws their way—from layoffs to new responsibilities. In her hundreds of interviews, Brown found that the variable that separated people who constantly struggled to ones who were surer of their place in the world was whether or not they showed vulnerability.
“They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating—as I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing. They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say, ‘I love you’ first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees…They thought this was fundamental,” Brown said. When we numb ourselves to being vulnerable, we may be doing it to protect ourselves, but we also are numbing ourselves to good emotions like gratitude and happiness. Successful people approach their lives as whole-hearted humans who are comfortable with who they are, flaws and all.
“When we work from a place I believe that says, ‘I’m enough,’ then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves,” Brown said.
6) “What do you think?”
It’s not in a TED talk, but it will change your life. The simple question “what do you think?” is radically transformative because it forces us to stop and actually find out what other people aren’t telling us. It’s crucial for real conversations that form connections because it acknowledges the difference and strengths of the person we’re talking to. And it makes us smarter and more likable. Try it and see the effect.
This article was originally published on July 13, 2017.