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Old 05-03-14, 03:36 PM
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Speaking clearly and feeling confident

Iíve seen so many posts about speaking clearly or avoiding foot in mouth situations. Instead of responding to each one, I just thought Iíd put this out there once to explain what Iíve done in my own life. Everyone is different and this may not work for you, but it might lead you to your own solution.

Iíve been playing the drums for thirty years now and when Iím playing with other musicians, itís my job to manage the ĎFeelí of a song. Tempo is very important to how a song comes across to someone listening or conveying the mood of the writer. Typically, I start out with the tempo weíve agreed upon and then adjust slightly to lock in with the bass player. From that point on, either one of us, can push or pull the rest of the band to get that good feel. I donít want to offend other musicians, so let me say that really good bass, or guitar players can do this also and Iím always willing to adjust to them. Sorry keyboardists, I usually canít hear you.

I love punk rock and the tempos are generally so fast that this ĎFeelí adjustment becomes very important. Even the best musicians get tired, stressed, or too drunk and they start making mistakes. Iíve played whole sets at slightly reduced tempos, or backed it down during a song, to account for this. The audience usually doesnít notice and they just hear a song that sounds good and feels right.

I practice with a metronome so that my ĎTimeí is spot on and adjustments remain intentional. Iíve always had difficulty following advice from others and have had to develop my own ways of dealing with my problems. The obvious way to speak clearly and get your point across is to relax and take it slow. The problem is that I obsessed over relaxing, slowing down, and my mind went all foggy. I have adapted this technique to something that works for me.

I found my natural speaking tempo using a metronome and have worked to back it down to the point where I make the least amount of mistakes and can get my thoughts across without confusing people. Iíve tried to find the tempo at which my mind operates but it seems to fluctuate too much to really track. I practiced speaking with a metronome and have found a tempo where my ability to communicate is much improved. At first I felt like I was speaking too slowly and worried that I sounded like a robot. But I kept practicing with the metronome, tried to speak musically, and recorded myself so I could be sure I didnít sound stupid.

Itís funny, what feels slow to you may not sound slow to others and recording your voice is a great way to check yourself. It seemed impossible for me to just, speak slower and relax, but doing it with the soft click of the metronome just felt right to me and now I change my tempo naturally.

ďLess is moreĒ, is something that Iíve seen in many really good musicians. When you are younger you tend to overplay everything. As you develop musically you learn play just what suits the song and resist the urge to show off, or overcompensate for any deficiencies you might have. In meetings, I try to resist the urge communicate conversationally and only speak up when Iím going to add something valuable. I also try not to show off and use big words that arenít a part of my normal language. Over time I have developed confidence in myself and this has become easier and I allow myself to take more chances.

One last musical technique that I use in conversation is a rest, or pause. In music this can draw a listener in or make them feel unbalanced depending on your intention. This works the same in conversation but it also gives me a few extra seconds to let my mind settle and get the words out correctly. When someone asks me a question, I always try to pause for a couple beats before I answer. If the response comes naturally to me, I go with it. If not, I just tell them I need some time to think about the answer. Everyone is guilty of trying to rush an answer before theyíve really thought about it.

The unexpected benefit to all of this is that, speaking slowly, talking less and more to the point, pausing, and resisting the urge answer when youíre not ready, actually puts you in a position of power. I speak with more confidence when I do this and others feel that and it peaks their interest. Making someone wait for an answer gives the impression that youíre thoughtful and put some energy into replying. Iíve noticed that when someone blurts things out without thinking, you see so many different reactions from others in the room. Some roll their eyes, tune out, or just talk over them. When you hold back or pause before answering, most will intently focus on you when speaking.

I do this at work, with my wife, my kids, and some friends. Itís getting easier and more natural going slow, but I still just let it fly at my fast tempo when the mood strikes me. Now, if I could only get better at the ĎLess is moreí thing when I write.
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