3 tips for more repartee and self-confidence (by Michael Ehlers)

“Only those who are able to express themselves are able to influence their own biography.” There is little or nothing to add to this sentence by dm founder Götz Werner.

The art of rhetoric is considered a core competency of any executive, salesperson, entrepreneur, and public figure. In addition to the possibility of taking advantage of professional training, there are also methods that are easy to implement for everyday life in order to expand one’s rhetorical toolbox.

Using three exercises as examples, I will show you how to demonstrate more quick-wittedness in everyday situations, gain self-confidence and prove yourself in good listening skills.

The good listener

Rhetoric is not only characterized by being able to speak well oneself, but above all by listening attentively. But listening has to be learned. First, it should be noted that poor listening should be distinguished from “not listening.”

Surely you have been in a situation where you just couldn’t or wouldn’t listen. Be it back in school, in university or during a seemingly endless lecture. Digressing can happen quickly.

However, a good listener is characterized by giving full attention to his or her counterpart. But this does not make him a good listener. Taking the bottom line from a conversation does little good if the details of the conversation have fallen by the wayside. After all, they are what give our rhetorical remarks the foundation they need.

To learn how to listen carefully, I recommend two ways. Either you already take notes during the conversation or you listen so intently that you could still summarize the central points on a piece of paper afterwards. It is important to make these notes immediately after the interview.

The second option is, of course, a bit more demanding. However, it is not important to be able to reproduce every topic discussed. You should ask yourself:

– What was the starting position of the conversation when it began?

– What arguments did the interlocutor/your own company list?

– On what points did the interlocutors agree/disagree?

– Where were compromises made?

– What was the outcome of the roundtable discussion?

Create a document in which you think about the above points and answer them step by step. Either during the conversation or afterwards. You can also adapt these questions to the particular starting point of a meeting or presentation. During a job interview, for example, it is rather unfavorable if you take notes on the course of the conversation during the interview.

In general, by turning your attention to a focused transcript of what is being said, you automatically focus on what is most important. This is because subordinate clauses or digressions must be clearly distinguished from the central topics. Just focus on capturing what is most important. The method is simple and at the same time very helpful. After all, a good listener is also a good speaker.

No more crossed arms and wet handshakes!

Just the idea of presenting a project in front of five people makes you break out in a sweat? And as soon as you start, you nervously tap your foot and lose the thread? I can reassure you: Many people feel that way.

However, this is no reason to give in to his weakness. Do you think professional presenters are never nervous? We just never see it.

But even the most nervous speaker can move mountains with the right technique. First, it is important to become aware of your fear. In fact, the cause of your fear is the shame you fear feeling when you embarrass yourself in front of everyone. To ensure that this is exactly what doesn’t happen to you, there are a few methods that will help you exude confidence from the get-go.

For that, I have some advice for you that will save you from appearing in front of people in the first place. It is best to stand at home in a room where no one will disturb you. Put a camera in front of you – it can be the one on your phone – and record your talk. Dry runs in front of the mirror are usually not very helpful. After all, it’s distracting to watch ourselves talk. Then watch the recording and note the following points:

What posture do I have? What do I do with my hands? Am I looking into the imaginary round or am I just looking at my presentation materials? At what volume do I perform?

Bring to mind all the things you found good and not so good. It should be important to look into the audience and let it wander from left to right through the audience. This is how you signal confidence, because if you keep peeking at your notes, you might give the impression that you are not well prepared. As you can see, there are some methods that will make you look confident – even if you don’t feel it that way on the inside!

But even if you are not in a presentation situation, facial expressions and gestures help you with your own effect. For example, make sure you have a firm handshake and straight posture. Look your counterpart in the eye, no matter what the situation, during a conversation and don’t avoid them. Also pay attention to your voice pitch in everyday situations. When people are unsure of something, they often speak more softly and slowly. Formulate clear sentences at an appropriate volume and dare to say what you wanted to say.

You often do not know what to do with your hands? Above all, your hands have no business in your face. If you constantly touch your nose or brush your hair behind your ear, you will quickly appear insecure to your counterpart. Either let your hands hang to either side or fold them into each other at stomach level. You can be aware of the following points: Crossed arms usually signal rejection and hands in trouser pockets signal insecurity.

Most of the time, your own inner critic is the best you can get, so the following applies: If you observe yourself well and are critical of your own behavior, you will change something in the long run. But be careful: Being critical does not mean making yourself small inside! Stay fair with yourself and also praise yourself once in a while if you found something particularly good. I promise you: You will grow from this and become more confident.

I, Me Me – Messages from the First Person Perspective

“You can’t do it, let me do it please!” Whether you may have heard this phrase in exactly the same way before, or in some variation of it. It is one thing above all: demotivating and unsettling. If you were the one who uttered that phrase, you can do a lot better next time. Above all, it depends on the perspective from which you send messages. Imagine a colleague criticizes your approach to an order processing last week. She says “The way you resolved that last week was disappointing.” What would be your first reaction? Understanding or resignation? Why not answer the question for yourself by asking yourself how your colleague could have told you the critical comment as an alternative? You may be bothered by the term “disappointing.” Or maybe the statement sounds universal, as if half the department found it just as disappointing. Here I can assure you: Your colleague could have expressed herself differently. However, regardless of whether she really means the content of her message.

If she had expressed herself in the following way “I think you could have solved the situation differently last week”, you would be ready for a discussion right away or? This wording gives you room for your own comments and does not portray you as the “dumb one” from the start. Important here is the “I” perspective that your colleague has used. Because that way, it only expresses YOUR opinion and gives you a chance to say something back.

You cannot change the fact that she holds this opinion of your actions. At least now you know how she feels about it. In addition, it strongly depends on the vocabulary. Try to use expressions with positive connotations or at least neutral ones. “Disappointing” has a very negative connotation and suggests failure. The phrase “solve differently,” is neutral to positive and points to alternative solutions that lead to the intended goal. Much better, right? So in the future – and you can also advise your colleague to do the same – make sure that your feedback is expressed as positively as possible and packaged in a “I” message.

Here you will find all three rhetoric tips once again at a glance:

Michael Ehlers Rhetoric Tips

Michael Ehlers is “Der-Rhetoriktrainer.de” in the German-speaking world. For two decades he has been training public figures, top managers, professional sports coaches, politicians and many more. Ehlers has mastered the art of rhetoric and applies it himself at numerous events as a keynote speaker or moderator of major events. Trainings and lectures in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and in Europe, the United Arab Emirates and the USA formed Michael Ehlers to one of the most experienced professionals in the field of rhetoric.


Michael Ehlers will also be an expert and coach at Presentation Rocket Day 2017. For more information on his workshop and Presentation Rocket Day, visit: www.presentation-rocket-day.com.