Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Communication Mistakes

The following excerpt is from an article I edited about women and communication mistakes they (we!) make. See credits below. Forward this post to the women in your life.

Uptalk is the singsong speech pattern that has a rising inflection at the end of a sentence. It sounds as if the speaker is asking a question instead of making a declaration. A rising inflection at the end of a sentence sounds tentative, as if posing a question. This is a real credibility killer. Women will not be taken seriously with this vocal pattern.
Why? Because uptalk makes you sound as if there are other options! To speak with authority, practice bringing the voice down at the end of a sentence. American intonation patterns use a downward inflection to declare or demand and a rising inflection to question or indicate uncertainty.

Weak Language
Are you a victim of Weak Speak? Do your words betray you?
You are minimizing yourself when you say, "This is just a thought," "I'm only a beginner," "I'd like to make a suggestion." Wimpy words such as if, hopefully, suggest, feel, might, sort of, kind of, and I think, weaken your conviction. Imagine a salesperson saying, "Hopefully, I've shown you that if you buy from us you might be able to increase your income." The potential buyer will walk away when hearing this type of message. The real message is "Don't buy from me. I don't believe what I'm saying."
Weak Speak consists of tag lines, modifiers, wimpy words, and apologies.

Tag lines
Some communicators make a statement and then ask for validation. "This is a good idea, don't you think? "We have the best team, right?" Tag lines weaken conviction and authority. Eliminate them.

Words such as some, just, only, hopefully, and guess minimize the message and the messenger. "This is just a thought." "I'm only a beginner," "Hopefully, I've done a good job," "I guess I have a question" are weak statements. They signal a lack of confidence and tell the listener that it's not very important. Constant apologizing is not appropriate and will have the same effect. Weed out wimpy words and replace them with powerful language. This is most commonly a female pattern.

Wimpy words (I LOVE THIS ONE!)
Women often use language differently from men. In the workplace too many tentative words will undermine the ability to lead. Don't wimp out. Take a stand. Turn these wimpy words into power words.
Wimpy words vs. Power words I feel vs. I know I believe vs. I'm confident If vs. When, By Suggest vs. Recommend It's sort of vs. It is Might vs. Will, Definitely Problem vs. Challenge Worried vs. Concerned Share vs. Discuss

Too much head nodding (THINK OF BOBBLE HEADS)
Women's natural ability for empathic listening can be a strength or a liability if overused. When women nod in a conversation or business meeting, they mean "I hear you," "I understand." However, men interpret head nodding as agreement with their ideas. Continual head bobbing creates a subliminal message of submissiveness. Women need to learn to nod less often, and men need to clarify the meaning.

Don't apologize or put yourself down. Excessive use of the word sorry will make you sound weak. If you've made a mistake, take responsibility and move on. Skip the drawn-out apologies.

Allowing interruptions
Men jump in and say what they think. They tend to interrupt more than women. Women are more likely to allow themselves to be cut off and lose credit for their ideas. Instead, it's important for women to stick with what they are saying. You can say, "I'm not finished," or "Please hold your questions."

Leverage public speaking
There are two equalizers in life — money and public speaking. One of the biggest mistakes women can make in their careers is avoiding public-speaking opportunities. Public speaking is an opportunity for visibility, expanding networks, and equal exposure. Your ability to speak confidently and intelligently in front of any audience (large or small) could be the differentiating factor that sets you apart from your co-workers. You can gain credibility and exposure by speaking at industry conferences, presenting at company orientations, speaking on panels, and training clients. Confront your fear, prepare effectively, get some coaching, and get out there and shine.

Edited from an article by Diane DiResta, an internationally recognized expert on the fine art of public speaking and commanding more influence at work.


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