Do you want to communicate with confidence? Is it sometimes hard to get your message across? Did you know that your body language plays a huge role in your communication with others? If you want to find out how to build effective communication skills then keep reading!
I was lucky enough to receive a free copy of the excellent book Power Skills by Juliet Erickson in exchange for this review.
I often struggle with communicating with confidence and being able to put across what I’m saying clearly. I was hopeful that this book could teach me some useful communication skills and ways of getting my message across, whilst being true to my values.
About the author
Juliet Erickson is an executive coach, communications specialist, and author.
She has helped an impressive array of people over the past 15 years including TED and TEDX speakers, as well as sports personalities, lawyers, and entertainers.
She successfully consulted and coached the London Olympic Bid Team during their final presentation to the International Olympic Committee.
Juliet also teaches a communications class at Stanford University and is passionate about helping non-profit organisations that engage and empower women.
It’s an impressive CV, and I’m particularly pleased about the last part as I’m all for empowering women to realise their potential.
Who is the book for?
I’m sure most people would benefit from reading this book. However, Juliet has targeted the book specifically towards women to help them stand in their power.
Juliet discusses the cultural and societal influences upon gender norms and behaviours. For women, the norms and assumptions about the way we ‘should’ behave or ‘carry ourselves’ have a huge influence in shaping our lives; sometimes for the good and other times not.
As a Psychologist, I’m aware that the implicit and explicit messages we receive from others can influence the beliefs we hold about ourselves.
However, I’d never really considered that the way we carry ourselves physically can also be influenced by what we observe in others.
This book has the potential to help increase your awareness of these long-standing, unconscious behavioural patterns so you can break the cycle!
Juliet encapsulates this in the following quote:
“What I have discovered is that if women can bring awareness to their physical presence and their bodies, it can dramatically shift and transform the effectiveness with which they communicate, persuade, and influence others”.
Effective communication skills
Power Skills aims to give you a ‘toolbox’ of body language techniques to power up your communication skills. Juliet highlights habitual behaviour patterns and explores alternatives to help you communicate calmly and clearly.
The book is divided into six chapters:
1. Communication Styles
Juliet explains the importance of being aware of your own communication style and that of others, and how these play a part in your communication skills and general wellbeing.
Juliet explores the four communication styles of: Direct, Expressive, Analytical, and Social/Amiable to help you understand your way of communicating and that of other people.
2. Posture, Gesture, and Movement
A number of things can impact upon our posture, gesture, and movement, including a lack of awareness about our bodies, a lack of exercise, poor diet, and low levels of self-confidence.
Research has found that adopting a powerful posture triggers a biochemical reaction in your body by increasing certain hormones and decreasing others.
This can help you feel more confident and less stressed. Who would have thought that simply changing your posture could have such a powerful impact on how you feel?!
In this chapter Juliet takes you through tips for posture, gesture, and movement, and how to use these to communicate your message effectively.
3. Eye Contact
Our use of eye contact can depend upon a range of factors including cultural and societal norms, and is a powerful way of recognising and sharing emotion.
Juliet explains the amount of eye contact that’s appropriate to use and the types of eye contact that can get in the way of building effective communication skills.
The chapter also contains some useful exercises for practising your eye contact in one-to-one interactions and in larger groups of people.
4. Voice and Facial Expression
Research has found that we’re better at detecting a wider range of emotions, such as positivity, negativity, calm, anger, and embarrassment when we focus our full attention on someone’s voice.
However, Juliet explains that when facial expressions are factored in these will override what our voice is saying.
The chapter includes some great exercises for your voice and face, to help you effectively communicate what you want to say.
Juliet talks about the power that women have in addressing confrontation, where our female brains help us to read facial expressions; process details quickly; notice things about the environment; bounce back and forth easily between feelings and facts; allow for connection of new ideas; and de-stress through collaborating or sharing with others.
Juliet uses this chapter to go through some of the more common challenges in relation to confrontation, with tools and tips to help you confront a range of situations more effectively.
6. Cultivating Presence
As Juliet explains, presence is when there is an alignment between your inner world and your outer physical body. In other words, when what you’re outwardly communicating aligns with your beliefs and values in a given situation.
When you implement the skills through the exercises covered throughout the rest of the book, you’re already starting to create more presence.
In this chapter, Juliet covers four elements in order to help you cultivate more presence: 1) Quality of Listening; 2) Paying Attention; 3) Managing Responses; 4) Being Comfortable with Silence.
SPOILER: The chocolate mindfulness exercise is probably one of the hardest mindfulness exercises I’ve done, because I just wanted to eat the darn chocolate!
Applying the skills
While I need to take time to read the book in more detail, the chapter which initially jumped out at me was the one on Confrontation.
If I feel I’m going to come up against confrontation or I’m unexpectedly presented with confrontation, then this generates quite a lot of anxiety!
Since reading more about the way we carry ourselves physically, I’m more aware that the prospect of confrontation has a real impact upon the way I carry myself.
I can feel myself physically “shrink”, perhaps in an attempt to make myself smaller! This is something I really need to work on when it comes to confrontational situations.
However, it was nice to see that I do already use some of the skills that Juliet discusses. One of the best skills I’ve learnt to use in confrontational situations is to focus on my breathe and keep my feet firmly on the floor.
Juliet’s chapter contains lots of other skills that I don’t use. I’ll definitely be applying the skills from this chapter to help me feel more confident in challenging situations.
Juliet writes in an engaging style and all the information and exercises are explained in an accessible way. The illustrations used throughout the book also make it easier to read and add interest to the content.
Juliet’s experience and work with clients demonstrates that we do have the ability to re-train our bodies and minds, and to build our confidence when communicating.
The change of these ingrained patterns may be more powerful for women in some ways, given that they may have held us back in certain situations.
There are lots of great exercises in this book. If you want an increased awareness of your behavioural patterns, and want to enhance your communication skills then I’d highly recommend it.
Order your copy from Amazon. Let me know what changes you make and the difference you see in your interactions with others!