Stop talking…at least until you take note of this

Talking. Pretty much everyone does it unless they are somehow prevented. It starts from an early age with baby babbling. Progresses to the annoying child always asking the difficult or awkward questions at the most inappropriate moment. Then stops during the Kevin and Perry teenage years and you’ll be lucky to get a single, monosyllabic grunt. Then on to the trying to impress, boss, friends, prospective partners. Then the familiarity of being able to finish each others sentences.

As someone who has to give occasional interviews I’m very conscious of how my voice and words come across. I try to formulate responses before speaking them. I try to slow down my speech so others aren’t struggling with the thread. I try to cut out the “ums” and “ahs” as much as possible.

An article by Jayson DeMers talked about the five most common conversation mistakes:

  • Filler words. The “um” and “er” and “like” (that one is a particular peeve of mine). They become distracting, but the good news is you can train yourself out of it just by being consciously aware.
  • Repetitive inflection. Monotone lack of inflection can be just as infuriating as over the top inflection on particular words in a sentence. And of course inflection on the wrong word can change the whole meaning.
  • Neglecting mannerisms. Be aware of over gesticulating or facial expressions, or pacing the floor. 80% of communication is non-verbal and your face can betray your words.
  • Talking too fast. Usually when we’re excited or nervous we can start to talk faster. We’re so keen to get all the words out we start tripping over them. Its better to speak slower as it gives you more time to consider your words. Adding pauses can add dramatic effect.
  • Rambling. Again, often a nervous reaction but can cause your message to be lost. A simple question requires a simple answer, not one that keeps wandering off the point.

The way DeMers suggested to overcome these habits is to practice. He recommended recording yourself and listening back to discover your own personal tick or speaking in front of the mirror to check your mannerisms and facial expressions.

When I’ve given presentations I’ve practiced them several times over and for really important ones I’ve done dry runs in front of colleagues who gave me helpful clues.

I was on a virtual meeting recently and someone’s facial expressions as someone else was speaking gave an awful lot away about what they thought about what the other person was saying.

I’m trying to speak slower and more deliberately so I can be aware of my “ums” and “ers”. I am also conscious that even though I might be excited about something I need to tell my tone of voice and face that so it reflects how I’m feeling.


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