Recently I was asked by a client to help him improve his communication capabilities. English is his second language, and he wanted to be sure his messages were coming across in the most effective manner. Through my work with this particular client, my attention to language, tone, and inflection heightened; and I became painfully aware of the shortcomings of many of us in the way in which we speak. Here are a few of my observations relative to our ability to speak with power and improved effectiveness.
1. What is up with ‘right?’ Earlier this week, I began to count how many times individuals with whom I work or interact, finished their sentences with “yeah, right?” It has become a familiar ‘tag on’ to conversation, as if we need approval, validation, or recognition that what we are saying is indeed right. I want to say, “I have no idea if you are right – you are telling this story!” That quirk may be acceptable socially; yet, as leaders, this simply weakens the power of our message. If you need to ask a question, then ask – otherwise, state your point and let it rest without asking for validation from your audience each and every time.
2. Ending a statement with a questionable tone. I don’t know where or how this trend began; however, I have countless clients and friends who end their statements with an upward lilt in their voice, as if they are asking a question or leaving it open for discussion. It is a habit which then becomes pervasive in an organization. I am working with one organization that every single executive I am coaching has this tendency toward inflection. Seldom do you hear someone simply state their point with firm, convincing, and unquestionable authority. It lessons the power of our message and certainly distracts from a confident executive presence. Be aware of this tendency, and practice consciously the ability to state your points with conviction.
3. Overused words and cliches. I remember when “gross me out” was a phrase that every teenager used as frequently as many executives use “out of the box”! When we use these phrases too often or inappropriately, they undoubtedly distract from our executive presence. In addition, the words lose their power and effectiveness. Buzz words are just that – buzz words. What are we really trying to say? Think about it. Be deliberate and descriptive. By speaking in your style with your own words, your voice will be authentic and you will be at your most powerful.
What do you think? What annoying speaking habits have you experienced or have you observed in your own behavior?