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How to Speak Properly and Master the Art of Conversation

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Maximize your speaking and conversational skills to make sure that you stand out during a conversation. Here's how to do so.

Maximize your speaking and conversational skills to make sure that you stand out during a conversation. Here's how to do so.

How to Speak Well

Learning how to speak properly is all about developing great oratory and conversational skills that boost your personal and professional image. Let's take a look at how you can master the art of conversation and say goodbye to those Ummmms, Errrrrs and long pauses while you speak to your friends, family and work colleagues on the phone or face to face. You'll be surprised what a big difference improved speaking skills can make in your life!

1. Don't Talk Too Fast

One of the most common mistakes we all make is to speak too fast. Whether it is out of excitement or out of habit, speaking fast can not only make it difficult for the listener to understand but also make people mock you. Speaking fast can also be considered a sign of nervousness. So one of the first things you need to remember on this journey to develop excellent speaking skills is to speak slowly at a pace which is easy to understand and allows you to speak each word clearly.

2) Don't Speak Too Softly

Have you noticed that some of the best orators and conversationalists have the ability to literally throw their voices at you? That's because they don't speak too softly. Speaking softly may be perceived as not being confident, being an introvert, or simply being nervous. Speaking firmly and in a loud voice lays a strong foundation for how your listeners are going to perceive you as a person. Carry a loud and firm voice but don't make it too obvious else people will think that you are shouting instead of speaking.

3) Think Before You Speak: Prepare If Necessary

"Speaking faster than you can think" is not a sentence that comes out of self-help books but from the daily practices of many of us. Have you noticed how your boss or manager at work seldom says things that they regret saying later? That's because they keep their brains one step ahead of their tongues and not vice versa. People who develop this important skill are often tagged as "Switched On" because they are fully aware of what they speak and are in full control of their tongues. The thought of actively managing to think before you speak may seem minuscule to worry about, but once you make a deliberate effort to do so, you will realize how ridiculous it was not to!

4) Avoid Umm, Errr, Aaaa and Long Pauses

Situation 1

Kathy: "Hi John. Here is my performance report from last week"
John: "How come sales were too low? Have you not been putting in the required number of hours?"
Kathy: "Ummmmm. I have ummmmm it has been a bad week"
John: "So what is driving sales down?"
Kathy: "Ummmmm the new sales policy (long pause). It is ummmmm difficult to convey to the clients"
John: "Well, that's not good enough. I don't expect you to give excuses"

Situation 2

Kathy: "Hi John. Here is my performance report from last week"

John: "How come sales were too low? Have you not been putting in the required number of hours?"

Kathy: "It's been a bad week John"

John: "So what is driving sales down?"

Kathy: "The changes in the sales policy has made it difficult to convince clients. We must think of a way around this immediately"

John: "Alright. Let me think about it and we'll have a team meeting in the afternoon.

Did you notice how Kathy's tone and effectiveness drastically affect how the listener, in this case, her manager John, perceives what she has to say? Long pauses and sounds like ummmmm and errrrr are often considered signs of nervousness, lack of knowledge and lack of confidence. If you are using these a lot while you speak, cut them out because they are of no value in your conversations. Using them once in a while is generally acceptable if all your sentences have ummmmms, errrrrs and long pauses, you will throw water over all the efforts to improve your speaking skills.

5) Listen to Good Orators

A passive way to improve speaking skills is to listen to good orators and actively take notes by thinking about:

  • What tone do they use while talking?
  • At what points do they give deliberate pauses?
  • What body language do they maintain while conversing?
  • How do they handle arguments?
  • How do they react to offensive comments?
  • How do they speak while handling a tricky situation?

Listening to good orators, whether they are giving a public speech, engaging in a debate or simply engaging in conversations, will allow you to introspect and relate to elements of your own conversational skill to theirs. The way they talk can be a good reference point that lays an anchor in your mind about the way to speak properly.

6) Ask Your Family to Nag You Every Time You Falter

A great of being reminded every time you start faltering on your speaking is to be nagged by others. They can be family members or loved ones who will take a genuine interest in helping you improve your speaking and conversational skills. Just make sure you choose the right person because the last thing you need is someone to mock you rather than help you.

7) Record Yourself Having a Conversation

Have you listened to yourself? If you haven't, be prepared for a crude shock. Listening to one's own voice can often be a major eye-opener and make you think, "Wow, do I sound like that?" While being a shocker, listening to yourself can also help you pinpoint where you are going wrong while speaking. It can help you identify the places where you take long pauses or remind you how often you include ummmmm and errrrrs while speaking. Record yourself having a normal conversation and introspect on how you can improve.

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Read More From Toughnickel

How to: You don't need to get a professional voice recorder or a special microphone to record your own voice. If you are using a cell phone that has been made in the last few years, chances are that it has a built-in recording function. Use it to record your day-to-day or even phone conversations.

8) Practice the Difficult Words

If certain words cause a hiccup while you speak, the only way to beat them is to listen to the correct way to say them and practice them over and over again until you say them properly. This may sound like going back to kindergarten, but if that is what it takes to speak flawlessly, that is what you'll have to do.

9) Maintain Good Body Language While Speaking

Body language plays a vital role in determining how effective your speaking skills are. Let's take a look at three key elements of body language that affect your conversational skills.

Eye contact: A common mistake that many make while indulging in conversations is to look away from the listener or the audience. Do you do that too? Don't, because looking into someone's eye while talking to them is generally considered a sign of confidence.

Posture: A good body posture and a straight back are the foundation of a solid body language. Avoid stooping or drooping while you are having a conversation.

Twitching: Twitching continuously, whether it is fingers, facial expressions or foot movements, can be a negative impact on your ability to converse well. Twitching is generally considered a sign of a person who is not calm, confident and strong-headed.

10) Make It a Habit

One of the basic things that you need to actively understand is that learning how to speak properly is not an act; it is a way of life. You will not be able to magically put on a switch in your brain that will help you speak properly when you need it and then turn it off when you don't. So whether you are in the company of your friends or your partner, when you let all your guards down, make sure that you actively control the habit of what you say, how to say it and when you say it. Don't expect overnight and magical changes. Mastering the art of conversation and speaking properly is a long-term learning journey that will benefit you for the rest of your life.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Victoria Campbell on September 13, 2018:

When i am upset about a situation like for instance my hours at work are being given to new coworkers i tend to get very upset! I want to talk to my supervisor about it without looking or sou ding upset i seem to do that alot and i know thats not a good thing! Any tips anyone???

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on June 24, 2018:

Excellent article. I often tell my students to listen and watch news anchors. If possible, tune into the BBC - They present subjects with confidence, even if it is written.

I still watch and listen to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he had unequal skills in speaking.

I also encourage my students and clients to practice.

Great article. Many of these tips I apply as well.



pablo on January 18, 2017:

I didn't know being an introvert is an insult now .-. Introvert and being shy are different things -.-

rob on July 18, 2016:

these are very

moncrieff on August 29, 2012:

Awesome advices. I will start practicing them to make it a habit. I professionally communicate with people over the phone and face to face daily and I don't like the way I communicate in most cases. Yes, it's true: more often than not, one is better off not uttering a word and being taken as a good listener and rather a smart person, for the moment some open their mouths they do a disservice to themselves. Thanks for the great tips!

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on August 28, 2012:

These are very useful and practical tips to converse effectively, Princess. Taken note of and thanks for sharing.

Voted up & useful.

mohd.shahid on April 09, 2012:

i read this article and i found lot of mistak.but now i will remove that's mistake after read article .i want to say thanks.i glad to article.thanks again

Josephat shayo on March 28, 2012:

Thanks for your tips..they real help us espeacialy young proffesional in africa,,, me too i have improved..

princesswithapen (author) on November 27, 2011:


I'm glad you think that all possible points and tips to improve conversational skill have been covered in this hub. Courses can be an effective way to master these skills but self-learning is the most power packed learning journey an individual can ever have. Thanks heaps for your appreciation and feedback. Much appreciated!


Cheryl Simonds from Connecticut on November 26, 2011:

This is a great hub. I learned a lot from it. I have been through several courses that teach speaking and body language and you hit on everyone of them. Voted up.

princesswithapen (author) on November 25, 2011:

Hi randomcreative

I hope that the people you talk about stumble upon this hub. Even tackling one or two of the conversational skills can make a world of a difference in a person's image, don't you think?

Thanks for spotting how these tips have been broken apart. I believe that breaking complicated points into something that is simple, direct and easy to understand makes it an enjoyable and useful read. Thanks very much for your appreciation.


Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on November 25, 2011:

Great tips! I know that many people can work on at least one or two of these aspects of their conversational skills at any point in their lives. I love how you broke everything down here. Great resource.

princesswithapen (author) on November 25, 2011:

Chasing Riley

Yes, talking with the hands is another important element which is a part of body language. However many management guides suggest that using hands, especially full faced and open palms directed straight towards the audience, can be an extremely effective aid to verbal communication. It is a double edged sword which can either make of break your conversation strategy like you've rightly pointed out.

I'm glad you could relate to these tips. Thanks for reading and commenting. Much appreciated!


The Evolista from Los Angeles on November 25, 2011:

This is a great hub! Voted up! You have terrific tips that are very valuable in learning the art of conversation. The only one I would add, which is tied in with #9, is to watch out for talking with your hands too much. I see some people flail away while they are speaking and it detracts attention from what they are saying.

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