A 3-step process to change your bad habits

Word cloud about mindfulness

This is iSpeak Clearly’s fourth and final article in a series on mindfulness and mindful awareness of speaking. The first three articles can be read on the blog, beginning here: https://ispeakclearly.com/2018/06/12/mindfulness-and-communication/

How to Create New Speaking Habits

In last month’s newsletter on mindful awareness and change, I discussed the general steps for making changes to improve your speaking skills.

Did paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, allow you to identify characteristics of your speaking and communication style you would like to change? Have you acquired skills to develop these areas?

Now it is time to integrate these skills into your daily routine and create new speech habits.

Have you ever considered how much of your day is filled with habit? Good or bad, the “settled tendency or usual manner of behavior”1 is pervasive in our lives. Waking up, getting dressed, brushing our teeth, saying (or not saying) “please” and “thank you,” when we check our emails…the list of habits goes on.

These tendencies extend to our communication. Speech is a habit. How we pronounce our words, the tone of voice we use in different situations, our vocabulary and word choice, our use of body language, and our non-verbal communication are all habit-based.

How do you create new speech habits?

First, you identify speaking habits you would like to create using mindful awareness. (Read more here: https://ispeakclearly.com/2018/07/23/public-speaking-and-mindfulness/)

Next, you acquire the skills to develop these areas. (More here: https://ispeakclearly.com/2018/09/20/change-habits-using-mindfulness/)

The next step is to utilize these new skills easily and effortlessly, by creating new habits. Easier said than done, but science is on our side!

Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, explains the process in an easy to understand manner.2 He describes the science of new habit formation as a three-step process: cue, routine, then reward.

Mindful awareness is an essential component of each step. Watch his video to learn more: https://charlesduhigg.com/the-power-of-habit/

A case study on changing habits: finding audience engagement in a previously boring weekly update

Let’s apply Charles Duhigg’s process to changing a speech habit.

A client—we’ll call her Annie­—identified her communication goal as speaking with a more engaging voice. She felt that her voice in meetings was monotone and her audience appeared bored and inattentive.

Step 1: Cue 
The first step was to identify what triggered Annie’s use of monotone speech. She had to develop awareness of her monotone speech over several presentations. Annie noted that she spoke in a monotone when presenting her weekly report to high-level managers and supervisors.

Step 2: Routine
What is the behavior? Annie observed that when called upon, she would read her prepared report in a monotone voice while everyone stared at her blankly.

Step 3: Reward
Habits form our path to reward. The reward may not always be obvious. In Annie’s case, the reward was to be finished speaking.

Using mindful awareness over time, Annie realized that she wanted her audience to look interested and engaged. After acquiring the skills to reduce the monotone quality of her voice, Annie identified a new reward and changed her routine to receive it, using the three-step process of cue, routine, and reward.

Step 1: Cue
Annie’s cue remained the same: presenting her weekly report around the conference table, surrounded by high-level managers and supervisors.

Step 2: Routine
Annie changed her routine. When called upon, she stood to read her report and, using strategies and techniques acquired though coaching, varied her voice to add interest to the information.

Step 3: Reward
The new reward was the attention of the audience, indicated by smiles and heads nods.

In just a short period of time, Annie identified a speaking habit that she wished to change, attained skills to alter her habit, and committed to changing her routine. She thus adopted a new, better speaking habit that allowed her to confidently present her weekly report to her supervisors.

Annie demonstrated that changing speech is possible through multiple small actions. Are you ready to improve your speaking and communication habits? iSpeak Clearly can help you assess your speaking and communication habits and identify skills you would like to develop.

 

1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/habit
2. https://charlesduhigg.com/the-power-of-habit/