While we spend a lot of time these days using electronic communication, we can never forget the importance of the face-to-face communication skills that are so critical to our success.
People make a snap judgment about you the minute you meet them. They check out what you’re wearing, how your hair looks, if you smell good (or at least not bad) and then they wait for you to open your mouth.
And that’s when many of us really screw up.
So, let’s consider the some of the ways we make others wish we’d never speak again:
1. Upspeak. “I am so glad to meet you? I have a lot of good information for you regarding your marketing campaign? It’s going to bring you lots of publicity?”
Well, is it or isn’t it? Expressing every thought as if it’s a question make you sound young and unsure.
2. Like. I like ice cream. I like getting a pay raise. What I don’t like is anyone using “like” too much. This also used to be only a speech pattern associated with 13-year-old adolescents sporting a mouthful of braces. Unfortunately, now it’s permeating cubicles.
“I, like, didn’t even get, like, a chance to give my report to like, the client?” you say to your boss.
So, now the boss is wondering: Did you give the report or not? Sprinkling “like” throughout your speech pattern a little bit may be OK, but it’s a hard habit to break and can become a big problem. It’s time to drop the “likes” from your speech. It makes your message muddled. If you’re not sure you’re guilty of it, record a phone conversation and see if you have developed this annoying habit.
3. Using words inappropriately. Do you say “acrossed” when you mean “across”? Or say “for all intensive purposes” instead of “for all intents and purposes”? If you have any hopes of rising through the ranks of your profession, nothing makes others snigger behind your back more than you mucking up words or phrases.
4. Laughing. At everything.This can take on a couple of different forms. There’s giggling and there’s the laughing “huff” that is supposed to be a self-deprecating maneuver on the part of the speaker, but just becomes weird after a while.
“I couldn’t get the client’s office because I forgot to bring the directions.” (giggle, giggle).
“I told him what a bad idea that was since we didn’t have near enough time to redesign the website (huff, huff), and especially since I was short handed (huff, huff).”
By this time others listening to your giggling and huffing are thinking: What’s so funny?
Often the constant giggling, laughing, huffing, snorting, etc., are protective gestures that come about because the person is nervous about communicating a message. The key is to learn to take a deep breath when speaking, and to use your hands more when talking. This is an old trick that will help you keep your breathing even, and prevent you from talking too fast and resorting to huffing and laughing your way through a conversation.
5. Saying “I think.”Always begin your comments with authority, and saying “I think” makes it sound like you’re somehow not 100% sure about your opinion. So, instead of saying, “I think we should contract with that company because they’re progressive and innovative,” you say, “That company is innovative and progressive and would be a great partner for us.”
This makes you sound more assured, more authoritative.
These are all pretty simple fixes, but could make a huge difference in your communication skills and in the image you present to others. Talk to friends or family about what could be some of your speech “crutches” or record yourself and look for ways to improve. It’s worth the time and effort to make sure others are listening to what you have to say.
Anita Bruzzese is an award-winning journalist who specializes in workplace and career issues. She is the author of two career books, and has been quoted in the New York Times, Shape and O Magazine, also appearing on The Today Show. Check out more of her tips and advice on her blog, 45 Things.