Here are 10 ways you may be undermining your own credibility:
Finishing sentences with “Am I making sense?”
So often we hear people, particularly women, end their statements with, “Am I making sense?” or “Do you know what I mean?” These little follow-on questions are invitations for our listeners to acknowledge that what we have just said was worthwhile. Unfortunately, though they rarely do that. In fact they send the message that we’re not sure our message was coherent. If this is a habit of yours, try substituting these questions with, “What are your thoughts?” or, “Let me know if you have questions about this”.
“Just”“I just wanted to pop in and see…”
“I’m just concerned that…”
We use the “just” word when we’re concerned we might be over-stepping the boundaries. After all we’ve been taught from a young age to be polite, respectful and if we’re female, demure. The “just” word makes us sound defensive, a little wimpy and tentative.
Drop the word ‘just”.
“I actually think…”
“I actually have a question.”
Usually “actually” can send the message we are surprised at our own capacity to think of a question in the first instance.
Why is it that women in particular, feel the need to apologise at work even when they are simply doing what they’re employed to do?
“Sorry to bother you but…”
“So sorry for interrupting.”
“Sorry if this is a silly question, but…”
Don’t apologise for taking up space; for entering a room’;for needing information; or for having something to say.
“Just a minute” and “Just a little bit”
“I’d like to take just a few minutes of your time” or “I’d like to tell you a little bit about our new product.” Yes, it’s important to respect other’s people’s time and to keep your messages succinct. Still there’s no need to discount your message by relegating it to the “just” category. If what you have to share is important and worthwhile; convey that, instead.
“Kind of” and “almost”
“I almost think we should reconsider.”
“I kind of think the report is a bit outdated.”
Using qualifying words like “kind of”, “almost” and “may be” negate what your suggesting; these words convey uncertainty and the impression that you’re worried that what are saying will cause offence. They make the message less powerful.
“I’m just thinking off the top of my head, but…”
“You have all been doing this job longer than me, but…”
“I’m no expert, but…”
Prefacing statements in this way plants the seed that what we are about to say is probably wrong. Lead in with confidence in the belief that your input is worthwhile.
An upward inflection at the end of our statement turns the sentence into a question. Up-talk is a defence mechanism signalling we need re-assurance.
By turning a statement into a question we safeguard ourselves from criticism should someone decide to challenge our opinion. Ending a statement with an upward inflection easily becomes a habit and signifies to others that we are uncertain.
When we don’t feel we have the right to a place in a meeting, or conversation, we often demonstrate this by speaking at great speed. When we speak too rapidly, we run our words together making it difficult to comprehend, plus we’re not giving our listeners time to absorb the message and so the content is lost.
Compose your thoughts before you speak; speak slowly, precisely and with authority. Use short sentences and brief pauses between each sentence to create a sense of self-assurance.
Making yourself small
Of course this isn’t about speech habits or speech patterns, but it does change the way people react to you. If you want to be ignored, by all means stay out of sight. Your non-verbal behaviour is even more visible than your speech mannerisms. If you want to be taken notice of, walk into a room with purpose; claim your space in the room or at the meeting table; use open body language; sit or stand erect. Make eye contact and position yourself to be noticed.
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