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Misunderstandings about Public Speaking

Because the process of communication is so complex, it is often misunderstood. It would simplify matters if a person could convey thoughts telepathically to another person. If thoughts did not have to be formulated in a speaker’s brain, expressed through that speaker’s words, transmitted through the air, perceived through the listener’s ears, understood in the listener’s mind, and responded to verbally by the listener, a message would always be understood. But that is not possible. Instead, God created humans to have thoughts and feelings which, to be understood by others, must be expressed in words. The complexity of communication requires study and practice throughout the lifespan.

Many counseling books unveil the critical need for communication within marriage. For years, during pre-martial counseling, my (Monica) father would place three rocks before the couple, signifying the three foundations of a marriage. One of those rocks stood for the critical need to communicate (connection); the others for communion (intimacy) and cooperation (marital roles). Married couples certainly benefit from the mastery of communication.

While there are numerous misunderstandings about communication, Duane Litfin presents three common ones in his book, Public Speaking: A Handbook for Christians.[1] These misunderstandings can confuse both the speaker and the listener.

Misunderstanding 1: Each act of communication is separate and discrete and can be studied as such. The truth is that communication is a complicated, interactive process.

Misunderstanding 2: Communication is linear in the sense that a message travels one way from a source to a receiver. The truth is that human communication is circular. It begins with a spoken word and continues with further interactions.

Misunderstanding 3: The speaker transfers thought to the listeners. The truth is the listener filters information through personal perspective in order to understand the message spoken.

These misunderstandings reflect the complexity of the process of communication. Though complex, communication is an essential interaction among humans to convey messages, build relationships, and serve others. Understanding these myths about communication will improve overall communication and strengthen relationships.

Seven Pinker, and Paul Bloom declared, “Speaking is innate, writing is an invention.”[2] Oral communication has several distinctive components which contrast it from written communication.[3]  These differences must be considered when speaking verbally. First, oral communication tends to be more direct than written expression. Nonverbal cues can clarify meaning while more description is necessary in writing. Second, oral communication tends to be more repetitive or redundant than written discourse. Readers can refer back to information that is written, while listeners need repetition for better understanding. Third, oral communication tends to be more fragmentary. Written language includes complete thoughts and sentences. Fourth, oral communication tends to be more personal. Readers typically include a variety of people not only those close enough to listen personally. One needs to be aware of these distinctives when preparing to speak. Information needs to be delivered to be heard, not read.

One of my (Monica) favorite Bible verses is Psalm 45:1,  “My heart is moved by a noble theme as I recite my verses to the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.” I love to write and find I am able to express on paper what is often difficult to express aloud. When I turned twelve years old, I started keeping a prayer journal. I would write out my prayers. Journaling became a daily discipline for me and helped me to articulate on paper what I was thinking about or struggling with each day. I found in my writing that I was much more detailed when I wrote out my prayers on paper than when I prayed out loud. However, when I have been asked to pray at a women’s event or small group setting, I never hand out copies of a prayer to be read by everyone. I speak them out loud to the Lord on behalf of the women in the group. As women hear what is spoken out loud, there is a connection. Words spoken out loud are different than words written out on paper.

According to Litfin, there are several distinct advantages of public speaking.  First, important messages must often be communicated to a large number of people. It is much more practical and beneficial for a major thought to be shared one time to a larger group than many times one-to-one. Second, a public speech is a message which can be organized and prepared by the speaker. Thoughtful preparation increases the clarity and improves the effectiveness of the communication. Third, a public speech allows the ideas to be heard by the listeners who can postpone a response until the ideas are fully understood.[4] While spontaneous, interpersonal conversation will always be a part of daily life and church ministry, skilled public speaking can enhance the message delivery among groups and even among individuals. What misconceptions do you encounter about public speaking?

            [1] Duane Litfin, Public Speaking: A Handbook for Christians (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1992), 19-21.

            [2] S. Pinker, and P.Bloom.”Natural language and natural selection,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13, 4 (1990), 707–784.

            [3] Litfin, Public Speaking, 275-77.

            [4] Litfin, Public Speaking, 27.

Stand Up Straight & Don’t Pace

Platform movement and posture are essential elements of nonverbal communication. Like gestures, they should look and feel natural to reinforce the message and not distract. The stance and movement of the body involve the total person, mentally and physically. Thoughts and feelings can be expressed in movements and gestures. These two rules should be remembered when on the platform: move when there is reason to move and stand still when there is no reason to move.

One of my (Rhonda) doctoral professors roamed back and forth in front of the classroom without making any eye contact with the students during his lectures. He paced aimlessly in front of the class as he taught. As a project in a behavioral modification course, several students attempted to alter his distracting behavior. Students on the right side of the class paid careful attention to the professor as he paced—looking interested, nodding heads, taking notes, and asking questions. Students on the left side of the classroom ignored the professor as he taught—disinterested yawns, hands on desks, no notes, and no questions. Within a few minutes, the professor only paced back and forth on the right side of the room. While his pacing behavior was modified, his poor eye contact remained unchanged. I learned the impact of the speaker’s body movement and positions by observing a negative model as a student.

Posture is noticed immediately, and opinions are made about a speaker based on stance and carriage. Posture is the position of a person’s body when standing or sitting. Many different organs, muscles, and nerves in the body are used to stand. While physical conditions may inhibit good posture, most people can control posture with conscious actions. A public speaker needs good posture to support vocal projection, to display confidence, and to enhance movement.

In No Sweat Public Speaking, Fred Miller suggests four ways that posture helps communicate a message. (1) Good, straight posture indicates leadership and confidence. (2) Leaning forward toward the audience shows concern and care. (3) Slouching the body conveys disinterest and boredom. (4) Hunched shoulders suggest low self-esteem and lack of confidence. Posture is more important than many speakers realize. Evaluate posture in a mirror or on a videotape. Remember to stand up, then speak up!

There are some cardinal rules about posture and movement that a good speaker should follow. Try not to break the following posture principles:

  1. Do not fidget with your hands or fingers.
  2. Do not jingle change or keys in your pockets.
  3. Do not cross your hands in front of your body (“fig–leaf stance”) or behind your body.
  4. Do not rock on your heels or toes.
  5. Do not sway back and forth.
  6. Do not lean on the podium.
  7. Do not cross your arms across chest.
  8. Do not look down for too long.
  9. Do not bob or shake your head too much.
  10. Do not be stiff or tense.

Zig Ziglar was a dynamic public speaker and powerful Christian communicator. Though small in physical stature, he had a “bigger than life” presence on the stage. He projected energy and enthusiasm as he moved confidently around the stage. His speech content was filled with knowledge and wisdom, and his delivery style was passionate, purposeful, and powerful. His sales experience and personal faith provided the foundational principles for his speaking and writing. A master of verbal and nonverbal communication, Ziglar said it this way: “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” Stand up and speak out like Zig Ziglar did for many years.

Correct posture is an important part of nonverbal communication in public speaking. Practice these principles and avoid these pitfalls.

  1. Walk deliberately to the stage; avoid rushing onto the platform.
  2. Stand upright keeping the body core tight; avoid tension or tightness.
  3. Place feet firmly on the ground and slightly apart (about shoulder width); avoid stiff legs and locked knees.
  4. Face the audience directly; avoid turning the body away.
  5. Position body behind podium with hands to the side or resting on lectern; avoid gripping the podium.
  6. Hold head and chin up; avoid looking down.
  7. Square shoulders with the audience; avoiding drooping shoulders.
  8. Keep chest up and stomach in; avoid tightening abdominal muscles.
  9. Relax the body; avoid tension and stiffness.
  10. Breathe deeply to relax; avoid short, shallow breaths.
  11. Pause to look at the audience; avoid rushing into the speech.
  12. Watch the posture of others speakers; avoid awkward imitation of others.
    Improved posture adds strength and authority to a spoken message.

Dale Carnegie, known as the father of modern public speaking, said: “A person under the influence of his feelings projects the real self, acting naturally and spontaneously. A speaker who is interested will usually be interesting.”

When your name is called and you walk to the stage…
rise up slowly,
stand up erectly,
walk out boldly,
speak out confidently.

Good posture makes a good impression on the audience and gives good support to the speaker. Outstanding public speakers develop a platform posture to reflect their attitudes and gain the audience’s attention. Body posture can reduce nervous energy and relieve physical tension. As you speak, make your body talk.

Devoted Even Unto Death


In the third century, a young Christian woman and nursing mother named Perpetua demonstrated her devotion to the Lord even to death. She was asked by the authorities and her own father to deny her Christian faith in order to save her life, but she refused. Her words of faith spoke clearly: “Could this vase or flowerpot be called b any other name? I cannot be called anything other than I am, a Christian.” In an amphitheater before crowds of mockers, Perpetua and other martyrs were scourged by gladiators, mutilated by wild animals, and then killed by swords. She courageously spoke of her faith and then died for it.

As a Christian woman and as a speaker, it is of utmost necessity to evaluate your relationship with God. Your devotion to God will be reflected  by your readiness to speak out for Jesus whenever you are called upon, and also as you prepare to bring a biblical message from the Lord. Are you strong in your faith? Are you growing in Him? Are you becoming the woman God created you to be? If you desire your life to count for His glory, you must be walking with the Lord faithfully as you engage in Bible Study, spend time in prayer, serve the Lord in ministry, and speak a witness of His redeeming love.

We will be judged based on the motives behind our service to the Lord as revealed in 1 Corinthians 3:11-13: “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will be clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.” (HCSB)

Bible study is essential for spiritual growth, and it is also an important source of information for preparing to speak a word from the Lord. Personal Bible study reveals not only the nature of God, it also teaches truths of the faith that can be shared with others. Devotional reading of the Bible as well as systematic study of the Word provide a biblical foundation for speeches and supportive material for points of the message.

Prayer is another vital element of spiritual growth for the Christian woman teacher to embrace daily! Prayer draws a believer closer to the Lord. God speaks to His children during times of prayer, and His children have the opportunity to speak their hearts to Him. Prayer also guides and directs a Christian who is preparing to speak, and prayer empowers the Christian while speaking. It is integral to the Christian life and essential for the Christian speaker.

Other important disciplines of the Christian faith are witnessing and service. All of these are needed for the spiritual growth and speech preparation of a Christian woman. However, these disciplines are not possible without complete devotion to the Lord. We must possess His strength to be able to be who He has called us to be. Being devoted in seeking Him is vital to the woman who is a Bible teacher, as she will be an example to many other women.

Devotion is not a word understood by or desired by the world. Most people are devoted only to themselves and their own desires. But the Bible teaches believers to be devoted to the Lord and follow Him wholeheartedly. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and man.”

The dictionary defines devotion as “ardent, often selfless affection and dedication,” It is loyalty and enthusiasm for a person activity or cause. It is literally pure love, the knowledge that one would actually give up life to protect or defend another without question or hesitation. For Christians, devotion is pure love of the Lord, a sincere expression of total faith through prayer and worship.

Devotion to the Lord helps a Christian be prepared at all times to speak out for Jesus, much like Perpetua. Personal commitment to the task of public speaking will also help a Christian speaker develop skills for the task. Those who think about the process of communication, learn about public speaking, study speaking techniques, and practice specific principles will undoubtedly become much more effective public speakers.

God SPOKE the Earth into Being


Human communication is a creation of God, an innate ability to convey thoughts to others. The process of human communication is very complex as people attempt to create meaning by using symbolic behavior in a specific situation to achieve understanding.

Communication is essential to life and relationships. It has been said that most of us spend up to 70% of our waking hours engaged in some form of communication. A person’s waking hours are filled with words!

Communication skills have the power to help people achieve their goals and accomplish their dreams. In his book, Secrets of Great Communicators, Jeff Myers suggests there are six ways communication skills can help dreams come true. He believes people with excellent communication skills will have a tremendous advantage over those without them. It has been said that seven out of ten jobs require good speech skills!

Consider these factors which support the impact of good communication on life and work:

1. You will find a stronger sense of purpose.

2. You will become aware of the world around you.

3. You will become a better learner.

4. You will become a better thinker.

5. You will develop greater poise in social situations.

6. You will relate better to others.

Queen Esther is an excellent biblical example of an effective communicator. She had many serious concerns to express, grace information which necessitated an audience with the king. She discreetly planned the appropriate time to pour out her deep burden and reveal the planned plot to kill her beloved Mordecai (Esther 4:15-5:8). Her conversation with the king literally saved her people!

In the beginning, God spoke the world into being. His divine communication accomplished His creation. For Christians, communication is more than an exchange of ideas. It is sharing faith with others through God-given speaking abilities. God empowers His children to communicate with Him through prayer and with each other in many different ways. So you see – learning how to SPEAK truly is a gift.

Lost in Translation – Communicating Across Genders


Communication between different languages requires translation and adaptation. When men and women communicate, their different primary language requires some understanding and consideration by the other. Judith Tingley described this process of adaptation as “genderflex” in her book Genderflex: Men and Women Speaking Each Other’s Language at Work. In the book, genderflex is defined as an active process: “to temporarily use communication behavior typical of the other gender in order to increase potential for influence.”

Because of the natural way men and women communicate, temporary adaptation to a different style of communication is necessary when talking with someone of the opposite gender. The primary goal of this adjustment is effective communication with members of the opposite sex.

Genderflex is necessary in life and ministry. Researchers have concluded that women make more adjustments in communication than men in mixed groups. Women tend to talk about topics of more interest to men when both genders are present. They also adjust their style and structure more easily in order to be understood and appreciated. These studies demonstrate that male-female conversations are more like men’s conversations than they are like women’s.

In the context of the Christian community, several strategies for improving gender communication can be employed:

1. Become aware of your communication style.

2. Understand the communication style of the opposite sex.

3. Adjust to different conversational styles.

4. Alter your conversational style to fit the context.

5. Don’t assume that the opposite sex understands your message.

6. Don’t criticize others who communicate in a different way.

It is a human tendency to think “my way is the best way.” In the area of communication, remember that different conversational styles are not bad. Different is simply different. Accept the differences and adjust when needed. Men and women have different – though equally valid – communication styles!

For more about communicating between genders, see Chapter One of Talking is a Gift! Monica and I share personal stories of miscommunication with men, and what we learned!


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Welcome to the Talking is a Gift blog! Here you will find posts on topics found in our book – from the differences in the way that men and women communicate to various ways to outline and even deliver your message! But first, let us introduce our book!

My (Rhonda) precious husband has always teased me about my spiritual gifts which are not in the Bible—sleeping, shopping, and TALKING. I respond to him in jest about his spiritual gift of discernment which encourages me to develop my spiritual gifts. So, I sleep late whenever possible, take his credit card to the mall, and talk from morning until night. I love my spiritual gifts! And, I do believe that “talking is a spiritual gift!”

Seriously, I do believe that talking is an essential spiritual gift for ministry to others. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit empowers every believer with spiritual gifts to accomplish His work (Rom 12:3-8; 1 Cor 12:4-11, 27-31; Eph 4:11-13; 1 Pet 4:9-10). Talking is simply a talent when used for personal pleasure, but it is a spiritual gift when used to benefit others. Talking is an essential God-given ability which enables the believer to use her gifts of teaching, encouraging, prophesying, and leading in service to others.

The purpose of this book is to provide a comprehensive communication textbook for women who have been given the gift of talking from the Lord. It is written to provide information and insight about the process of communication especially public speaking for women in undergraduate and graduate academic programs as well as lay leaders in the church. Written from a Christian woman’s perspective, it will include general discussions of interpersonal, verbal, and nonverbal communication.

We hope and pray that you will enjoy the personal stories and lessons learned that you will find in the pages of our book, and also that your ministry can grow and flourish through what you read!