Adapted from The Art of Work: How to Make Work, Work For You!

Communication is a sharing process that enables all of us to work and live harmoniously and productively with one another. Speaking is one of the most powerful means you have of communicating, and how well you speak can work for you or against you. A poorly expressed message can ill serve even the best intention. So, it’s very important to your success in work, and in life, that you are artful in the process of your communication. It is very important that you understand this: What you say gives people a good idea of what you may do.

When you speak, whether you know it or not, you are doing so in one of two ways. You are either speaking in a direct way or an indirect way. Once you understand the difference between the two, and how each can be effective or ineffective to your success, you become more empowered to achieve your goals. In your work environment, this is one of the most important lessons you can learn. Direct speech happens when you are clear about what you mean and leave no hidden or contradictory messages in it.

Indirect speech happens when you are not clear, or try to manipulate by leaving ambiguity in your message.

If you are not clear about your message when you communicate, it doesn’t matter whether you have a direct or manipulative intent. You leave the message that is heard up to chance. With so many methods of communicating in today’s work environment, it’s good to be at your best wherever you can.

Think before you speak!

This is still one of the soundest pieces of advice you will ever receive. It allows you to be about your message in more than your words. Knowing where you want to go with your communication, and who you want to receive it, allows you to consider which words you use, and how you use the power of intonation. Thinking ahead ensures that you cover all your points, and that you get to evaluate your own message, before you deliver it.

Considering the culture of the person or persons you are speaking with is extremely important. Communicating in a manner that signals you have no initiative other than to complete your point is one of the fastest ways to create shutdown. Many people at all levels of business fall short here. Sometimes it may be because you are just so excited or rushed about what you want to say, and sometimes it may be because you are trying to impress someone with your knowledge or how well you’ve got a situation handled. The reason you’re bent on finishing it doesn’t matter; if you do so without engaging the other person and allowing them to interact, you will lose them. Body language will signal to you if they’re with you, and if they want to interact. Being sensitive to this can oftentimes help you more than simply doing all the talking, yourself. Another danger in talking too much is that you risk causing information overload.

You dull the recipient’s ability to take it all in, and if this is happening between two different personal or business cultures, you can create panic or cause the other person to simply give up on the conversation. Have you ever witnessed this? It’s not pretty.

Be very aware of the business culture you are working in. It’s never a bad idea to use basic and clear language, especially if you are working across cultures. It’s also a good idea to slow down your natural pace of speech. This will help to ensure that everyone you speak with has the opportunity to digest what you’re saying. This doesn’t mean that you should talk really slow, or that you should yell … It means that you should listen for the tone with which others are communicating and pace yourself to that.  

There is also, at work, the need sometimes to have your message delivered by someone other than you. Your entire message can get lost as more and more people participate in relaying it. Be very careful when you are a part of message relay, and when you are requesting someone pass a message on for you. If your message is critical, where possible and appropriate, use your own voicemail system or email. 

Another good tip regarding direct messaging is to encourage the recipient of your message to reply immediately. This will help you to know how they’ve interpreted your message, or if they have selectively picked parts of it to respond to or act on.

The whole conversation around speak as though the whole world hears is complex. Obviously, the whole world is unlikely to hear anything you say. The point is that whoever in the world does hear you should hear something that is beyond reproach … something that can stand up to any scrutiny.

Speaking as though the whole world can hear, when you truly understand it, involves how you brand yourself at work and life. It helps to decide how you get along in your job. If you are going to succeed at your work, regardless of whether or not you’ve identified your ideal career, or are doing the job that keeps you in bread and butter, you must learn to speak–communicate–as though the whole world can hear you. This means that you must pay thoughtful and professional attention not just to what you say, but how and when you say it. Part of this means understanding to whom you are saying it, because that will also impact what it is they hear.

Knowing that the whole world hears you, means working to stay on point all of the time — being totally committed to the goal(s) you’ve set for yourself, and then living completely inside of it. 

Communicating with clarity and purpose will enable you to communicate with others in a more profound way. It will also allow you to be about your message in more than just your speech. Knowing where you’re going and how you’re getting there ensures that you send the message in everything you do; your communication to your support system, family, friends, and all others.

Communication is not merely talking … It’s listening, seeing, and being invested, too.

Total communication ensures your clarity and supports your intuition as a thoughtful listener. It’s encompassed in your follow-through to the commitments you make and it requires you to deliver results on your intention. 

We should all present ourselves in a manner that facilitates expressing ourselves properly. Others receive us not solely based on the words we use, but on how we come across when and how we say those words. When you communicate fully, you are able to speak pointedly! Remember that when you do, the whole world can hear you!