Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Speaking Effectively–The Number One Rule: Open Your Mouth

If you have something to say, open your mouth!It seems obvious that we must open our mouths to speak, but many people forget that number one rule. They have good thoughts, creative ideas, sharp wit, and something worthwhile to say, but they lose 90 percent of their impact because they don’t open their mouths enough to get the words out. It is almost impossible to be viewed as dynamic, strong, confident and capable if your words are muffled, mumbled or muttered.

It is also almost impossible to work effectively with a customer or client if you are looking down, mumbling, or sounding disinterested or merely mouthing words that have no significance for you. (Like, “Can I help you?”, said with a tone that would sound OK coming from a robot but not from someone who really wants to help.)

This rule about opening your mouth, is crucial for people who are working with customers and clients, being interviewed, taking Assessment Centers, leading meetings, speaking on behalf of a project, or just conversing every day.

Opening your mouth and using your lung-power to project your words allows you to project your thoughts, which is why you were talking in the first place. We used to call that verbal projection, and it was the focus of speech and drama classes and part of the study of elocution. It should be part of the personal and professional development of anyone who wants to be effective and successful.

  • Opening your mouth to project your words is easier to do when you are looking up and forward, with your posture comfortably erect, rather than having your head down and your shoulders and body slumped–a much more effective look as well as sound. 
  • Opening your mouth and projecting your words increases the amount of facial expression you have and the level of energy you convey.
  • Speaking up and out gains the attention of listeners.
  • Projecting your words reduces just one more distraction for listeners–and most listeners need as few distractions as possible.
  • When you open your mouth and speak clearly and distinctly, you are less likely to use irritating fillers in your conversation–umm, ahhh, errr–and you will reduce subvocal sounds that are distracting: Coughs, hacks, chokes, nervous laughing, sniffs and throat clearing.  

I’m not talking about a tongue, teeth and tonsil display. Nor do you need to be like Demosthenes, the Greek orator, who was reputed to practice speaking with pebbles in his mouth until he could speak clearly around them. You just need to hold your chin up a bit more, open your mouth a bit more, look more directly at your listeners, put more air into your lungs and project your voice a bit more–nothing dramatic or over-done, just clear speech.

Perhaps the best way to ensure clear speech is this: Have something worthwhile to say and have the desire and commitment to say it effectively. If you can’t or don’t speak up and speak out, you may never be fully valued, and never get to achieve all of which you are capable. If you make effective articulation a habit, your next big goal is to make sure your words are effective as well. There is no point in opening your mouth to speak more clearly, if you only make it easier put your foot into it!

February 12th, 2008 Posted by | Assessment Centers and Interviews, Personal and Professional Development, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers | 2 comments