Faith & Insight: How do people see you? |

Faith & Insight: How do people see you?

Doug Stewart
For the Nevada Appeal

Happy Advent everyone. I hope everyone’s prepared for the Christmas season.

I would like to discuss the skill of making yourself understood. We listen to each other with our ears, our eyes and our life experiences. In fact, it’s estimated that your words are only 20 percent of what you communicate.

Many factors, including the locale, the time of day and simple intuition affect how well you are actually understood. There is a trick to making sure the message received is the one you send. Here’s how to make sure your words are in sync with the way you say them.

Use a tape recorder to capture your style of speaking. Pick a time when you are focused, relaxed and alone. Talk into the recorder until you know your voice is natural. Your conversation with yourself should be long enough so that you can pick up repeating patterns of speech. To establish a natural situation avoid reading into the recorder.

Ask yourself the following questions:

How’s my volume? Am I loud or soft?

How’s my tone? Am I rough? Do I whine?

Is my pitch high or low?

How are my speech patterns? Am I emphasizing or repeating key words?

How’s my pace? Am I fast or slow?

How’s my attitude? Am I a bully? Am I insecure?

Once you’ve established how you sound, focus on your appearance. You may want to use a mirror to assist you with your physical movement whenever you talk.

Ask yourself the following questions: Do I move close to my listener? Do I use hand gestures? What sort of facial expressions do I make? Do I maintain good posture? Do I dress appropriately for each situation?

With your listener in mind, review how you sound and look. Make sure that your style does not interfere with what you say. For example, a rough tone may mask a gentle nature. Too slow a pace may make listeners impatient. Closeness can be positive or negative depending on the boundaries of that particular person.

During real conversations, check your impact in two ways. First, observe the other person. Is your listener distracted? Does the situation feel tense?

Second, build feedback into your conversational style. Ask questions to confirm understanding. For example, if a project is due next month, confirm what day and what time of day is mutually agreeable. State your feelings and invite exchange.

Verbal communication takes up about 50 percent of our time. It’s easier to send and receive the right message when you understand the effect that your presentation has on others. Make sure others understand what you are trying to say.

The most frustrating thing to me, is having to repeat myself many times to get my message across. Use the techniques above to enhance your communication skills and make life a little more understandable.

As always I welcome your questions and comments.

• Doug Stewart is director of Youth and Family Ministry, St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Community. He can be reached at or 775 882-1968 ext 111.