7 More Tips to Help You Talk Like a Smart Lady

During grad school, I worked as a teaching assistant for a Film Studies professor. This meant I had to write quizzes, grade papers, and at the end of the semester, give a guest lecture. In theory, it should’ve been easy. I was currently studying to get my Masters degree in screenwriting, and this was your basic Film Theory 101 class. I’d done plenty of research on the topic, knew all the artsy film terms like mise en scene, and could ramble on about cinematography like an old director in a downtown LA deli. One teeny film studies speech? Nothing to it. Then the first time I practiced my lecture, I nervously blurted out my entire five pages of notes in one frantic, mumbled sentence without taking a breath. Yikes. Maybe I wasn’t as smart as I thought?

We’ve all suffered from those moments of self-doubt, even in the face of all our research and careful planning. In the end, I had the knowledge, I just needed a little more fine tuning. To help you hone your own speaking skills, here are seven more tips to help you talk like a smart lady in any situation.

 

1. Slow your roll

For some, it’s nerves that make them talk lightning fast. Others do it to ensure they get their point across before being interrupted. And sometimes, it’s simple excitement. You can’t wait to share your thoughts, and that’s a good thing! But whatever the reason for speaking too quickly, the unfortunate result is that you come across as less confident and practiced. To sound intelligent and professional instead, slow down the tempo you speak. Make sure you’re giving yourself a chance to breathe while talking. It’ll all help you appear more thoughtful and in control. This is another one of those skills that’s easier said than done, so don’t be hard on yourself if you have to practice in front of friends for awhile before you get the hang of it.

 

2. Save the crossing for the crossing guards

Sometimes you just don’t know what to do with your hands and arms while talking. Put them on your hips? Wave them in exaggerated gestures to emphasize your point? If you’re feeling vulnerable or anxious, you might be tempted to cross them across your chest. Sort of like a comfortable self hug that will guard you against the world. While that might make you feel better, it will definitely set the wrong tone for your conversation or speech. Crossing one’s arms gives off a defensive or negative air, and may suggest you’re shut off from hearing others’ ideas. Instead, keep your arms still and relaxed at your sides or resting in your lap. If you can do that, you’ll be projecting confidence in no time.

 

3. Look ‘em in the eye

As awkward as it may feel, there are so many reasons why it’s crucial to make eye contact while talking. To begin with, a study done by Environment and Behavior, (a journal that explores the correlation between, not surprisingly, environment and behavior,) showed that making eye contact with a person could create an incredibly strong connection with them. Simply by looking them straight in the eye, you can better pull people into what you’re discussing and win them over to your side. On top of that, if your eyes are drifting around the room instead of focusing on the people you’re talking to, your brain is likely to get distracted, and in turn, slow down. At the same time, looking someone else in the eye will keep them from drifting off. That way, you can hold their gaze, maintain their attention, and show them how confident and brilliant you are!

To hear more about Environment and Behavior’s study and the importance of eye contact, check out the article here.

 

4. Play debutante and stand up straight

 

While I hope no one’s going to make you balance a book on your head in a job interview or meeting, it’s still so important to have good posture if you want to come across as smart and professional. That’s not always easy when so many of us have developed “computer hunch” from hovering over our keyboards all day long. But bad posture or an unsteady, shuffling stance suggests someone who isn’t sure of what they’re saying. To combat this, think of yourself like a statue with two feet planted firmly on the ground, shoulders back, and head held high. This way, you become an immovable object that won’t be easily swayed or steamrolled by the opposition.

 

5. Keep your body on lockdown

This goes along with not crossing your arms and standing up straight. While there have been tons of recent reports on the health benefits of fidgeting, be aware that in the wrong situation, an inability to sit still can be taken for distraction or nervousness, neither of which you want to display when trying to hold an intelligent conversation. Even worse, excessive fidgeting is a classic body language sign that you’re lying, so if you do need to stretch or shake out your joints while talking, make sure it’s not taken the wrong way. Another fidgety tick that can undermine your authority is excessive nodding. When we’re excited and want to show we fervently agree, it makes sense to nod one’s head. Too much nodding, however, will make you seem like you’re not really paying attention and just blindly agreeing to everything. The moral of the story is you don’t want to give anyone a reason to pay more attention to what’s happening with your body than the very smart and fascinating words coming out of your mouth.

 

6. Take care of your voice to make it loud and clear

I love in movies when a tiny woman manages to silence a room full of loud arguing people with her even louder voice. You too can command a room’s attention with your voice if you give it the proper exercise and care. Start by working on your breathing. By breathing deeply, straight from your diaphragm like an opera singer, you’ll be able to support your voice and thereby talk louder, without straining your vocal cords. This way your words will always come out as confident and strong. Keeping hydrated is also crucial for a healthy, strong voice. Drinking water prevents dry mouth, which will definitely aid you in speaking clearly. Make sure to work on any speech ticks or hangups you might have. A current vocal issue facing a lot of young people today is vocal fry, which is a sort of creaking, croaking, vibration of the throat that is apparently VERY off-putting to job recruiters. If you’re worried vocal fry might be creeping into your voice, here are a few exercises to combat it. And with a strong, clear voice, you’ll be able to loudly and proudly demonstrate to everyone how smart you are!

 

 

7. Get rid of that crutch, Tiny Tim!

Practice speaking without crutch words, such as “like” or “um”. When I was in high school, a charming (sarcasm) fellow openly mocked me in class for saying “like” more than anyone else, despite the fact that I was the smartest in my grade and ended up as valedictorian. While the kid was most certainly a punk, he did in his horrible way bring this problem to my attention. Grades and papers are one thing, but if I didn’t sound smart, it was still too easy for others to insult my intelligence. Let my high school humiliation be a lesson to you!

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2 Responses

  1. Lolene Terry says:

    Very good- really enjoyed this one. Some other tips- for public speaking- always pick a topic you are well versed in- that helps you be more naturally confidant. Know your audience and speak to their level of understanding— don’t techno jargon an audience that won’t understand.
    Laugh at yourself if you make a mistake- it makes the audience feel comfortable with you. For example one time the slide clicker on my presentation went too fast and I had to go back- which was awkward- so I quipped- This is why I am never in charge of the TV remote at Home!

    In interview situations- realize the interviewer may be as uncomfortable as you- so try to engage them in conversation if they seem to run out of questions- ask them about the company- why they like it- how they see your job contributing to the whole- etc- you need to be interested in them as much as they are interested in you.

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