Tag Archives: speaking strategies

The Art of Small Talk and Deeper Conversation

My friend and fellow Communication Expert Mark Bowden was recently on the TV show The Social, and revealed some great verbal and non-verbal communication tips for us to use or avoid when in conversation.  Many people have a difficult time with the art of small talk, not only with getting the conversation started, but with keeping it going and making it more meaningful.  This lack of confident communication can affect us both at work and in our social lives.

One of my most popular communication coaching programs (and has been for a number of years) is called “The Art of Small Talk & Winning First Impressions.”  It’s no wonder it’s so popular – small talk is no small matter!  🙂  If this topic interests you and you would like to improve your soft skills, here are some useful links for you to explore.  Enjoy!

Link One – The Art of Conversation on The Social (article and Mark’s TV appearance):


Link Two – Just the video:

Link Three – A little about my interpersonal coaching programs, and how to connect with me to request a brochure and set up a free initial consultation if interested:


Link Four (and more)Effective Communication Skills – Never be Stuck for Words Ever Again! Ebook (epub) by Ric Phillips on iTunes, Nook, Kobo and Lulu (prices vary beyond my control):





PDF Version herehttp://www.lulu.com/shop/ric-phillips/effective-communication-skills-course-workbook/ebook/product-638214.html

Enjoy your small talk more from now on, and have deeper conversations with more impact.

Negotiations Are Easier With the ‘3 Ls’ Technique

"Let's talk negotiations"

“Let’s talk negotiations”

On April 30th 2015 an organization I am proudly a part of, YEDI – York Entrepreneurship Development Institute, held its inaugural alumni meeting at York University (Toronto, Ontario). As a Program Advisor and Business Communications Specialist I was asked to partake in the Panel Discussion along with the other YEDI Program Advisors to share insights and tips with entrepreneurs on the very popular but somewhat mysterious and intimidating topic of “negotiations”.

I posted an article on LinkedIn, so please follow this link to read it – thank you.


If you like it and find the tips useful, please like and share.  🙂

Dealing with Hot Topics & Current Affairs

To be an effective communicator you have to be able to talk about current affairs and old, unsolvable contraversial debates (think abortion, death penalty, gun control, politics, religion etc.) without offending others, and at the same time without feeling that you have sold yourself out by not voicing your own opinions.

To add weight to your position I suggest you do some extra research on the topic – not just what the mainstream media is telling you. Get a wide range of information from across the spectrum – left wing and right wing – so that you are prepared to discuss the topic fully and are prepared for many counter-arguments ahead of time. Be open-minded, share information and learn. Do not argue and do not insist that others see your point to the point you are being a bully. Discuss and share, but at the end of the day they will absorb whatever they are willing and able to absorb on that day, just like you. Don’t push it, even if you think you are 99% right. It’s not about winning – it’s about respecting others and sharing info.  No one wins a heated argument anyway, right?  🙂 Hold yourself to a higher standard of intellectual as well as passionate conversation and you will be seen in a better light.


Use ‘Chunking’ to Help Speak Clearer

Hello everyone,

Whether you have a ‘thick’ accent or whether you are speaking to someone who has it, there is something you can do to assist the clarity of the conversation. Break up your sentences into smaller chunks, or phrases. Many people wrongfully assume that when you can speak English fast, it is a sign of fluency. Wrong! It is no good if no one can follow you, or if they think you are mumbling, or are simply too embarrassed to tell you that they didn’t understand you, right?

Chunk your sentence delivery. Obey pauses (i.e. commas and dashes) in the sentence, and when necessary, add a few other pauses. Deliver your speaking like you are delivering a speech, without as much emphasis of course, but with deliberate attention to your speed and volume. Example – instead of this:

“Hey John do ya wanna go outtathe bar tonight an watch the hockey game overa few beers?”

Try this:

“Hey John, do you wanna go out to the bar tonight, and watch the hockey game, over a few beers?”

I think you get the point. I know it is hard for me to explain this over text, but if you try the sentence yourself once fast, then once slow, you should be able to tell the difference. Try to get something ‘in between’!  Think about most great speakers, for example on TED Talks videos, or most politicians or spiritual leaders.  They tend to chunk up their delivery of information, as well as use medium volume, medium speed, and appropriate stress.  Try to emulate the great speakers, even when you are having a relaxed conversation.  Just ‘dial down’ the public speaking voice a bit.  🙂  Once again this advice is especially useful if you are speaking with an accent.  Go try.  🙂

ESL Resources? Please go here


As a Communication Coach I work with many different people from many different walks of life, and I have the pleasure here in Toronto of coaching hard-working immigrants who struggle with ESL (English as a Second Language) and English fluency. I just want to remind any of you out there that I have two separate blog categories where I discuss ESL issues and resources.



I just wanted to take this opportunity to remind my readers that this blog as a whole is not ESL-specific, and focuses on issues under the broad umbrella of “communication” and “communication coaching and training”. I know some of my readers and subscribers are very interested in ESL help as well, so therefore I am now directing your attention the more focused blog categories for speakers of English as a second language.

I hope you enjoy the posts and resources.

All the best,

Repeat Key Phrases to Help Accent

One of the things to remember when you are looking to speak English better, is that English is just one part of language, and language is just one part of communication.

A quick way to build rapport with your listener is to take a technique from NLP and mimic or reflect back their favourite words or expressions. This way, even if you ‘have an accent’ it won’t be as important as the fact that you are connecting with the person on their level and making them feel comfortable by using one of their own favourite words/expressions.

This is also a good thing to remember when you are trying to decide if you should sway your English accent towards British or American. The actual answer is – it depends. It depends where you live or who you work with. I am not suggesting you have 2 distinct ‘fake’ voices, one that sounds like James Bond and another that sounds like George W.  I am suggesting that you listen to and imitate the people around you, especially if you are an immigrant. This will help you bridge the gap and increase fluency or at least a sense of fluency until your English improves a bit more.

There is more I could say on this subject but for now the take-away point is to listen to the people around you for their key words and expressions and then repeat them sometimes. Do not be an annoying parrot though.  About 3:1 should suffice.

Content Stress is Best

As a general rule,

▪ Stressed words in a sentence are considered content words. These include nouns (e.g. kitchen, Peter), (most) main verbs (e.g. visit, construct), adjectives (e.g. beautiful, interesting), and adverbs (e.g. often, carefully).

▪ Non-stressed words are considered function words. These include determiners (e.g.: the, a, an), auxiliary verbs (e.g.: is, am, were), prepositions (e.g.: before, of, in), conjunctions (e.g.: but, and, so), and pronouns (e.g.: they, she, he)

Read the following sentence aloud:
The beautiful mountain appeared transfixed in the distance.

Now read this sentence aloud:
He can come on Saturdays as long as he doesn’t have to do any homework in the evening.

Notice that the first sentence actually takes about the same time to speak well! Even though the second sentence is approximately 30% longer than the first, the sentences take the same time to speak. This is because there are five stressed words in each sentence.

Assist Your Listener

Hello everyone! I hope you are all having a great summer and not working too hard.

Today I would like to remind you of something I am often repeating in training – assist your listener. Sometimes we can get caught up in our own speaking that we neglect the listener. We may be speaking too quickly, or too quietly, or without enthusiasm or proper stress, or we may be speaking over or under people’s intelligence levels.

Think in the past of someone who spoke to you that way. How did you feel? I hope and assume it was not done on purpose, but still, what is your typical reaction to someone who seems to be pontificating on and on, or otherwise seems to not need you in the conversation? Half of the time my reaction is to just stare with utter amazement! The other half of the time I actively re-balance the conversation with no egos bruised. Would you like to know how to do that? Great! Sign up for coaching! (ha ha).

Our public speaking performance improvement is great for our personal success, of course, but we cannot forget that if we lose our listener’s attention or respect, it is game over. No matter how eloquent of a speaker you may be or how fast you can speak, the important thing to remember is that communication is a dance. You need at least one other person working with you right?

So the next time you have lots to say, are excited, in a hurry, at work presenting ideas or whatever, remember to pause and mentally self-evaluate your delivery tools: volume, speed, rhythm, appropriate vocabulary etc. and ask yourself – can my partner/listener/audience/client/student etc. completely follow me? Do they have enough time to process the information being thrown at them? Are they engaged in this conversation or are they just passively waiting for their turn to speak? If so, what responsibility do you take in that situation? I hope from now on you take a lot of personal interest and responsibility in the ebb and flow of your conversations, and are careful to assist your listener at all times, especially when your listeners change frequently throughout the day, week, month, year and lifetime!

FYI – In Japan

Do you know this shorthand? FYI?
It means “For Your Information.”

It’s a great way to save time and space in text mail and email.
We even can use it in actual speech!
E.g. “John, I’ll see you at 6pm for dinner, and FYI, it’s your turn to pick up the tab!”  (Pay the bill).

I am currently in Japan right now, enjoying my time in Tokyo, Yokohama, and soon Shizuoka and Kyoto.
I’ll post again soon.

Thanks for reading!

Simplify Your English ok?

Today’s mini-lesson is simple. Be simpler.
Is simple a bad thing? No. (See? A simple answer!)

As a communication and career coach I have seen resumes and cover letters that are too ‘wordy’ and absolutely unclear. This little advice is not just for resumes and CVs, it is also for presentations, speeches, meetings, etc. or just plain conversation.

If you are using ESL – English as a second language – then you are already probably a little nervous about what you say and how you say it. Let me give you some good advice that you can smile with: simplify your language and communications. Do not over-complicate it all. We do not think a person is stupid just because they use simple, easy-to-use English. We often choose the simplest form of speech as it is the most direct and quickest. However if you are using too many big words and are over-polite and too formal etc. we then might think that you are not very comfortable in our world of casual no-nonsense ‘direct’ language.

Think about it. Simplify your thoughts before writing out a ‘thick’ resume or letter. Organize your words using common language before you speak.

Simple is best.

Isn’t that good news?