In the spirit of leaving dormant any Deipnophobia, which is strangely enough the fear of dinner conversations, I’d like to discuss the subject of hierarchy when it comes to speaking and communication. In my view, there’s a vastly unexplored or undistinguished hierarchy to communication, speaking and self-expression.

The ability to speak is the skill by which we form coherent sentences based on well-discerned conceptualising. It represents the first healthy level to effective communication. We speak in order to verbally and publicly share and externalise our wishes. These wishes or intentions can be externalised as information, explanation, sharing, empowerment, responses, wants, ideas, inspirations, requests or demands, opinions, doubts, plans or goals, etc.

Strangely enough, speaking or the ability to make sounds does not require much effort relative to its potential to genuinely communicate with others. As a matter of fact there are so many low forms of expression that it is easy to get lazy around communication. Some examples are gossip, small talk, meddling, interrupting, dismissing, talking when you’re not in the mood, patronising, avoiding, denying, indiscriminate sharing, attacking, self-absorption, slandering, gloating, lying, exaggerating, dramatising, sensationalising, etc.

Gossip is one of my favorite examples as it is so rampant and rarely noticed as a tolerated but mediocre form of expression. Also, so many individuals speak without being invited and often without evidence or factual data, which can be extremely alienating; others, simply release anxiety or confusion through mindless blabbering. A good friend in New York used to call this form of expression “diarrhea of the mouth”, which does not require presence, intelligence, accountability or intentionality, and even less a highly developed voice.

First and foremost, the very act of speaking carries imbedded expectations and possesses its own criteria for measuring success. However, speaking as we saw above in these lower forms is not communication and it is not until one graduates from these forms to actual communicating that we can have genuine and rewarding two-way interactions or negotiations.

Indeed, at the level of communication, the full engagement of ourselves and of whomever we are communicating with becomes a must. To use a pertinent metaphor, speaking is not good tennis until there is accountability, presence and awareness.

It is more difficult to communicate because two or more people are involved for an outcome that is dependent on the quality of participation of each individual, as well as the level of interest and the reliability and validity of the facts or ideas presented. Within the lower forms of communication, which I call the speaking or low-stakes conversation level, what you get back may be boring, inaccurate, unoriginal or even upsetting but let’s be frank, the stakes are much lower so nobody really cares or pays much attention to what is being said anyway.

Another interesting angle is that many people speak without being heard or recognised strictly as a consequence of this essential lack of distinction between speaking and communicating. Mind you, speaking is a wonderful skill but only as an authentic step toward actual communication and expression. Unless, of course it’s your young child’s very first sentence ever ☺.

Put another way, it is our intention to make sure we are heard and request a two-way tennis match that our communication skills become real and important to us. Then, we have a chance to become effective, interesting and possibly original or even inspiring.

In matters of communication, involvement is always a potential risk and a professional attitude becomes a requirement because the reactions you get or don’t get from your audience matters to you. Until someone communicates in the way we are distinguishing it in this article, that person is not really an effective speaker and it is essential to become aware of that.

The reason is that all speaking carries expectations such as being heard, seen or understood and when the fulfilment of those expectations is absent, it usually spells disaster or at least disappointment.

Therefore a low commitment to your speaking equals a low return on your investment.

Author's Bio: 

Eric Stone is the Co-Founder and President of Speakers & Artists International, Inc.; a California Corporation delivering advanced training programs and strategic consulting in the arenas of public speaking, communication, performance and personal leadership development. A long-time professional Stage, Television and Voice-Over Actor, Mr. Stone is the Founder of the Hollywood Actors Studio, where he has been lecturing, directing and developing actors for film & television, voice-overs, and stage for the past twenty two years.

Teaching and directing actors was the first step in beginning a long parallel career as a public speaking and communication skills trainer which began in 1987. His sheer passion for self-expression and his relentless pursuit of building confidence in people of all walks of life led to the creation of Speakers & Artists International, Inc. The success and undeniable results it produced for business professionals greatly encouraged Eric to continue his journey as a talent developer.