This is a loaded question, right?! Poor communication hurts every – single – time. From the small misunderstanding with a significant other, to a poorly worded email that caused a conflict, to not speaking up in a meeting with your boss. It’s disheartening how one small phrase, facial expression, or tone completely changes the intent of your meaning and can cause an issue.
This is exactly why effective communication skills should be towards the top of your priority list when it comes to self-improvement, both professionally and personally.
Communication skills can seem daunting, especially if you are a naturally introverted person.
Not to worry though.
Have you heard of Toastmasters?
Toastmasters is an international non-profit organization that focuses on helping its members improve their communication and leadership skills. The organization has been around since 1924 and is currently run in over 149 countries helping a diverse array of people become more effective communicators.
I’ve been a member since 2014 and here are some of the benefits I’ve realized first-hand:
- Increased self-awareness
- Confidence speaking in small groups
- Managing my facial expressions
- Learning how tone changes meaning
- Active listening
- Managing large audiences
When I first visited a Toastmasters meeting, I was blown away with what I saw and heard.
Up to then, I felt like I was a pretty decent communicator. I wasn’t shy or afraid of speaking. I had to give presentations in school all the time, so in my mind I was joining for leadership skills. Well, after hearing one of the members give a speech that was so inspiring in only 5 minutes (without all the ums and ahs) I knew I had so much to learn!
The best part is that all the members are volunteers who are going through the same experience.
As a new member I was partnered with a more tenured person to guide me. We broke down my skills into smaller more manageable projects so not trying to tackle everything at once – starting with those ums and ahs. Each time I spoke in a meeting, even if only for a few minutes, everyone in my club was very supportive and provided very useful and constructive feedback. It felt like a safe place for me to put myself out there.
I can honestly say that the skills that contributed directly to my career advancement was learning how to manage my non-verbal communication. Listening to other members speak and practicing myself helped me see and hear how my tone of voice, pace, and the pitch in which I spoke could change the meaning of what I was saying.
I also learned how to manage my facial expressions to match my message and soften any negative impacts. For instance, I had a huge eye-rolling problem to the point that I didn’t even realize I was doing it in the moment. Often, you’re speaking in impromptu interpersonal conversations and not always giving presentations. This is when non-verbals and message intent are key – especially if it is your boss or another decision maker in your company.
Now, after all these years I still get that same level of support, but I can also support newer members who are just getting started in their self-improvement journey. My projects now focus more on leadership, managing/working with a team, negotiation, and motivation.
I endorse Toastmasters wholeheartedly for anyone who wants to improve interpersonal or presentation skills. Over the years I’ve seen the impact effective communication skills has had on my career. I’ve witnessed the same impact and growth in countless others.
Plus, since Toastmasters is a non-profit it’s a much more affordable option than some of the courses or certifications out there that I’ve come across. If you want a supportive and safe environment to make mistakes and get help, at a nominal price point, then this is a no-brainer.
If you want to learn more then please message me or check out Leaders Plus Toastmasters https://leadersplus.toastmastersclubs.org/
We meet virtually twice a month. I leave every meeting feeling great! Come see for yourself!
Don’t wait until the next time poor communication hurts you!