Here's a Quick Way To Take Control Of Your Nerves: Communication Skills That Work

Good breathing patterns are vital communication skills, and few people realise how powerful they can be. Learn to control your breathing and you’ll find it easier to manage difficult situations.

When you feel nervous, angry or frightened, your body takes over.  We’ve all experienced the rapid heartbeat, sweating and fast breathing of our body’s fight or flight mechanism. It’s possible to control those feelings, using simple techniques that leave you fired up and ready to do your best in the situation, while remaining calm enough to control what you do.

Breathing patterns
One of the simplest ways to get on top of your body’s responses is through your breathing. With a little practice, you can improve your breathing patterns, reducing your stress levels and gaining control over potentially scary situations like giving presentations, calming angry clients, helping your child overcome tantrums and making your point more forcefully in meetings. 

Take control
Breathing is an automatic function that continues, controlled by your brain, even when you’re asleep. The rate of breathing changes, getting faster when your body sends chemical bursts around your body, for example when you begin to feel anxious, and slower when you relax. Many people breathe shallowly, using the top of their lungs. Learn how to breathe more deeply and slowly.

Practice
Try sitting or lying quietly and comfortably, and breathe out, counting slowly to four, before breathing in, again to a count of four. You may be surprised at how slowly and deeply it’s possible to breathe. Notice how slower breathing helps you feel relaxed. Try different depths of breath, noticing how your stomach moves in and out when you take good, deep, effective breaths.

If you lie down to practice, take care when you finish your practice to get up slowly, to avoid dizziness.

Calm your anxiety
Next time you feel anxious, take a second to breathe out fully. Your incoming breath will be deeper and fuller. Focus on the outgoing breath. You can leave it to your brain to make sure your incoming breath is deep enough to replace the air you breathe out: that’s how it keeps you alive.

Pass it on
When a child or friend feels stressed, their breathing will be rapid. Your calming words may be ineffective for them, as they focus in on their feelings to the exclusion of anything else. Instead of relying on speech alone, try matching your breathing to theirs. 

Breathe in when they breathe in, and breathe out when they do. Once you are synchronised, start to slow your outgoing breath slightly. You’ll find they’ll follow you and calm down a little.

Speaking and breathing
When you match your breathing pattern to that of another person, you also match your speech patterns. We speak on an outgoing breath, so as you breathe in, there will be a silence. That silence slows your speech rate, and calms the atmosphere. It also helps the other person understand what you say more easily. A slower speech rate, with pauses, improves communication.

Presentations
The added excitement, perhaps even the fear, of speaking in front of others, can play havoc with breathing and speech patterns. You may talk much faster than you realise. Trying to talk slowly can be difficult because the intensity of the situation may distort your sense of time. Instead, concentrate on your breathing patterns. Count slowly in your head, before you begin speaking, and establish a slower pattern that helps you feel in control.

Making an impact
When you have control of your breath, you can manage the way you speak. In general, good speakers speak more slowly, pause more often and use fewer words, with clearer emphasis, than poor speakers use. To control a meeting, ensure others listen to your arguments and make your points better, use your breathing patterns to underpin your speech rate.

Here are some more of our posts on better communication: 

Help Your Child Talk: Three Top Tips To Help Your Toddler Understand More Easily

Here's extract 16 from How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: your chance to learn more about the way your child learns to talk.
If you'd like to get in touch, maybe with a question on babies, toddlers and language development, or any communication topic, feel free to email me through the Contact Me tab at the top of the blog. 

If you're a new reader, CLICK HERE to read How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter from the very beginning.This link takes you to the first post, so you can read the extracts in sequence. At the end of each week's post you'll see a link to take you on to the next extract. I try to post every Friday, by noon GMT.


Understanding activities: variety
Let your child have access to many different situations. Seeing a real duck in the park is worth a library full of pictures of ducks. Give him the opportunity to experience things in a range of places.

Parks, libraries, the back garden and shops are all places for him to see and experience a whole new world of new sights, sounds, sensations, smells and tastes. 

Everything is new and interesting to a young child. Try to leave plenty of time in your day for him to see and handle. Allow twice as long for a shopping trip as you think you need, so you can talk to him about everything that catches his interest. He’ll learn so much more quickly.

Understanding activities: simplicity
Talk to him in simple sentences. If he misunderstands, it means your sentences are too long or complicated. Say the same thing again, in a simpler way, perhaps using two sentences with a pause in between. That gives him time to process the first word or two and understand them properly, before you say the next phrase. 

Remember how you feel when you hear someone speak in a foreign language, especially one that you learned at school. You often wish they would just slow down and let you catch up. Your child feels like that when you bombard him with too much language for him to manage.

Understanding activities: word position
Put a new word at the end of a sentence, as this helps him to pay it more attention. “Look at the dog,” is better than “There's a dog over there.”

If you're finding these extracts useful, and can't wait to read the rest of the ebook, just BUY NOW. Download How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter to your Kindle in seconds for only £3.53 ($5.73).

Storytelling for Toddlers: Help Your Child Talk With His Own Stories

Twitter buddies have been tweeting about bedtime stories. Most toddlers seem to like the made up ones best. 

Sometimes,  mums and dads worry about whether they can make up 'good enough' stories. So to prove how easy it is, here's one I prepared earlier.

Kids love repetition and it helps them learn language skills. This story is as simple as can be. Start it off, and your toddler will soon join in.

Go ahead and add your own variations, using your own child's name. 

You'll soon find your own stories are better!


Aunt Jemima's Cakes





Nick woke up one morning feeling excited. His Aunt Jemima was coming to tea. 

"She likes cakes" he thought. "We'll have cakes for tea." Nick liked cakes, too! "I'll go to the shops straight away." 

And he ran off, forgetting to make a list of the things he would need. 


He ran as fast as he could, and bought some flour. He ran home again and put it in his mixing bowl. 

"Oh dear," he said. "I bought the flour but I forgot the chocolate."

He ran back to the shop and bought some chocolate. He ran home again and put it in his mixing bowl. 

"Oh dear, " he said. "I bought the flour and the chocolate but I forgot the butter."


He ran back to the shop and bought some butter. He ran home again and put it in his mixing bowl.

"Oh dear," he said. "I bought the flour and the chocolate and the butter but I forgot the eggs."

He ran back to the shop and bought the eggs... and so on. You get the picture!

Keep going, adding new items for the cakes and repeating them all in a list each time.

Finally, go for a big finish.

At last Nick was very hot and tired, but he had all the things he needed for Aunt Jemima's cakes. He had the flour, the chocolate, the eggs, the milk, the sugar ....etc.

He made the cakes, then looked at the calendar.

"Oh bother" he said. "Aunt Jemima isn't coming today at all - she's coming next week."

"Never mind, I'll just have to eat all the cakes myself."


And so he did. 
................



What stories do your toddlers like? I'd love to know. Use the contact me button to get in touch or just leave a comment on the blog.

How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: Understanding Words

Here's the latest extract  from How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: your chance to learn more about the way your child learns to talk.

I'm getting great feedback from those of you who read this every week, thanks to everyone who's tweeted or emailed. If you'd like to get in touch, maybe with a question on babies, toddlers and language development, or any communication topic, feel free to email me through the Contact Me tab at the top of the blog.

The third key that unlocks the mysteries of language for your child, is understanding.

In this extract, I explain a little about what it means to a baby and toddler to begin to understand words.

If you're a new reader, CLICK HERE to read How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter from the very beginning.This link takes you to the first post, so you can read the extracts in sequence. At the end of each week's post you'll see a link to take you on to the next extract. I try to post every Friday, by noon GMT. 

Understanding: meanings
One of the beautiful properties of language is that most words have a range of meanings. When you hear the work “dog”, you visualize a dog. You have a picture in your mind. Very likely the mental picture you have is different from the picture anyone else has. This is because the meaning of the word depends on your life experiences.

If you own a dog, you may think of him first. If your own dog’s a labrador, you’ll have a picture of a labrador in your mind, while your friend who has a dachshund will imagine her dog when she hears the word. 



Understanding: making sense of sounds
For your baby, the first step in learning the meaning of words is linking the word to just one thing: in this case, a dog. Remember that, in his first year, “dog” is a string of sounds that has no meaning. 

He hears that collection of sounds repeated many times. It begins to have a familiar ring about it, until he notices that every time he hears those sound combinations, that furry animal that barks and licks is in the room. 

Every time he hears that particular string of sounds, there is this thing that you call “dog” around. At first, it may be the family dog. Then he may hear those sounds while you point to another dog next door or to a picture in a book. He hears “dog” each time.

Perhaps then, the word refers to any animal with four legs, or to anything with a collar. It could be any or all of these. Gradually, he learns that different animals have different names, or labels, and he recognizes those different labels.

His understanding grows so fast that by 2 years old he understands 200 words and more. 

Understanding: toddlers
Your toddler starts to realize that words can go together in phrases. When you say “give it to daddy”, the words he picks out are “give” and “daddy”. These words carry the important meaning of the sentence, and the rest of the sentence is unimportant. Help him understand by emphasizing the important words you say, and by often using short, simple sentences. 

Understanding: phrases 
Next, your child learns how words combine into phrases and sentences. “The cat sits” for example.

Grammatical markers, such as “-ing” and “-ed” help to increase the number of meanings attached to those words and phrases. You can say, “the cat sat”: changing one vowel sound in “sit” from “i” to “a” changes the tense of the phrase, putting it in the past. You can also add markers to turn the phrase into the future tense: “the cat will sit.” 

Understanding: frustration 
Temper tantrums are likely in your 2-year old child, often the result of the frustration he feels. He can’t understand your explanation for denying him those sweets or toys he wants. He understands “no” but not “they’re bad for you.” 

He can’t explain his own feelings of frustration, because his language skills have yet to reach a stage of development that allows him to put his feelings into words. No wonder he screams and kicks.

Often, sign language helps, as he uses a set of simple signs more easily than putting together the words and saying them so people understand. If you use sign language with your toddler, make sure you always say the words as you make the sign. You want your child to hear words in context many, many times, before he learns to say them himself.  

Come back next week for another extract. CLICK HERE

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I write this Communication Blog

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Frances Evesham: on the run around Europe for years, with only a husband, three children and a succession of opinionated cats to keep me out of trouble. Somerset stopped me in my tracks. Now I walk in the country and breathe sea air. I will get around to cleaning the house soon.

I've been a speech therapist, a professional communication fiend and a road sweeper. I sometimes work in the criminal courts to uphold fair questioning of people with special needs.

I smell the roses, lavender and rosemary as I cook with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chillies in the other. Writing historical romances and books on communication leaves enough time to enjoy bad jokes and puns and wish I’d kept on with the piano lessons.