Clients often ask us for tips and tricks to improve communication and so without further ado:
A Speech-Language Pathologist's Top Ten Ways to Improve Communication At Home
1. Reading aloud while recording yourself on your phone
Reading aloud while recording yourself on the phone can be helpful in self-assessing whether you are pronouncing all of the sounds within words. Are you pronouncing the sounds TH, R, and S properly? What about B and V?
It can also be helpful in listening for a quality of your voice. Does your voice sound quiet? Muffled? Raspy? Breathy?
There are many adjectives to describe your voice, and listening to how you sound on a recording can be helpful in clarifying to yourself what it is about your voice that you like, and what qualities about your voice you want to change, if any!
2. Scheduling in a deliberate communication time
Conscientiously setting aside ten minutes each day where you deliberately use your best communication skills is very helpful in building the "communication muscle." Overtime, you can extend this communication time to longer lengths, but ten minutes is a good start. By using this trick, you can practice exceptional communication without being overwhelmed by the daunting task of having to use it all the time. Think: small steps.
Journalling after social events or communication moments can be exceptionally helpful in developing those essential self-assessment and self-reflection skills. How did the conversation go? Did you pronounce some words correctly? Were you mumbling? Were you asked to repeat? if so, which sentence was it that wasn't clear? Etc. By thinking about what you said and how you said it, you can hone in on specific communication behaviors that need work.
4. Attending social events
Getting out and interacting with others is a great way to practice your communication skills and your social skills. Fret not, you don't have to be the life of the party right away, or ever. You might want to arrange a coffee date with a friend, or take a cooking class. Most people feel more comfortable in dyads, or small groups over large groups. So, if your working on your communication or social skills and want to try them out in the real world, I recommend starting small with maybe one person then once that feels ok, see if you can feel comfortable in a social event with three people, then four... and so on.
5. Attending Yoga
The practice of yoga is excellent for practicing posture and breathing for voice. Most community and fitness centres offer yoga classes, and it is worthwhile to ask the facility which classes focus on foundational breathing, or in the yoga world, Pranayama. If you are feeling uncomfortable about the idea of taking a large group class in public, I have also heard about new yoga apps which can be helpful in practicing the optimal posture and breathing for speech and voice right at home.
Yoga can also be beneficial for clients who are experiencing communication anxiety because of it's underpinnings in mindfulness. Mindfulness is a popular therapeutic exercise, based in originating from Buddhism, that helps in bringing awareness of our internal and external experiences. Current research on mindfulness practices demonstrates its effectiveness in helping reduce anxiety.
6. Slowing down
Slowing down is one of the most common tips we recommend for adults who are looking to improve their speech, social or communication skills. First, slowing down allows your body time to breath with optimal efficiency. Second, slowing down allows your oral musculature (tongue, lips, etc.) time to make all the moves recurred to pronounce each sound. Consider for a moment, how many moves your mouth has to make when pronouncing the word: "pronounce." Slowing down allows your brain time to process information in social situations. Slowing down also allows your brain time to formulate concise, accurate and grammatically-correct statements.
7. Watching and listening to your communication idols
Some clients, especially those working on changing the sound of their voice or improving their social skills/people skills benefit from watching videos of people communicating (often found on sites like YouTube) and discovering their communication idol. A communication idol is someone who you can watch speaking and try to study what exactly it is about this person that you find pleasing. Once you understand what you like, and how you want to present, then you are one step closer to achieving your communication goal.
8. Taking an interest in new words
We know from research on children's language acquisition that children who are encouraged to play with words are more proficient oral and written communicators. Knowing about this relationship between word play and skill level, we can generalize that playing with words can help adults to become more proficient with oral communication. We have a whole page dedicated to different word games and explaining which skill they target.
9. Looking up words that are hard to pronounce
The English language is congested with pronunciation inconsistencies. For example, consider the words marriage and foliage. Same ending, different sounds. In fact, there are so many inconsistencies in the pronunciation of English that there is a well-known and through-provoking poem on the subject, aptly called "The Chaos." Because of this, it is tricky for native and non-native English speakers to know how words are pronounced - especially when the word is newly learned, or infrequently used. If you are concerned about pronouncing words correctly, we recommend looking up words that are hard to pronounce on dictionary.com and clicking on the sound icon to hear how the word is pronounced.
10. Contact us if you are needing extra help
All of the strategies described in this article are used frequently in our work with adult speech, social, cognitive and communication skills. If you are having trouble with your voice, fluency, social communication, or have other concerns regarding your communication, then reach out to us to see how we can support you to tackle your self-improvement goals.