The answer is probably ‘No, it just happens’. And you’re right, otherwise you wouldn’t be here to read these lines.
But just make this little experiment: try to speak and breathe in at the same time.
Unfortunately, we’re not like birds who have a syrinx instead of a larynx. The syrinx lets them sing when they breathe out but also when they breathe in. They can even produce a different sound from each of their lungs!
Humans just can’t – or not very easily. Skylarks can produce 18 minutes of unbroken song. We have to pause regularly to breathe in.
Why does that matter?
Well, let me give you 2 examples.
The first one is from one of my favourite movies (The pursuit of happiness).
The second one is from a British member of parliament.
Pay attention to the breathing and to the speed and rhythm of the speech.
Will Smith says 50 words in 30 seconds. That’s 100 words per minute. It’s slow by average standard (around 150 words per minute). But his message is absolutely compelling. The pauses add dimension and impact.
Sarah, on the other hand, talks at a speed of 200 words per minute. There’s hardly any noticeable pause in her speech. Her speech speed and tones are almost constant, which makes her speech extremely monotonous. Even though what she says is interesting (she’s very intelligent – she was a scientist prior to turning to politics), it’s a struggle to pay attention to her message. Listening to her, I find myself trying to breathe in for her!
The test of good communication is not what you say or what you mean but what people understand.
It might be that you feel you have to say as much as you possibly can when you get the chance to put your message across. Unfortunately, it’s just counter-productive.
If you speak too fast and without any pauses, you don’t let people any time to process what you’re saying and you’re running a high risk of simply losing their attention and ignoring you.
My Top Tips To Improve Your Communication Skills Through Breathing
- Think about your breathing when you speak and particularly choose wisely the times when you pause to breathe in
- Pause before a key word (or key part of your sentence) and extend the silence a bit longer
It will command attention.
- Don’t just slow down your overall rate of speech
You might just make it as boring as when it was too fast.
- Instead, introduce variety of speed, rhythm and tones
You will make your speech far more interesting to listen to – giving you a better chance to put your message across.
- Don’t fill in every blank space with unnecessary words (I don’t think, hum, you see,…), use a short silence to let your audience process what you’ve just said and to give you a chance to breathe in
- Breathe normally avoiding shallow breathing
If you breathe normally from the start of your speech, it will help disperse the tension and stress you might feel. It will help you keep calm and relaxed. To help you breathe normally, make sure you have a good posture (chest out to ensure a good lung capacity) and start with a good deep breath.