The first time you heard your recorded voice, you were probably a bit surprised. Perhaps your voice was softer or louder than you expected, or you sounded tentative, or little girl-like, or shrill. Maybe you spoke rapidly or found that you dropped the “ing” on words. Or you used fillers like “um,” or your accent was more pronounced than you realized?
In addition to volume and tone. what you say is as important as how you say it. Since most of us are creatures of habit, we tend to use the same phrases over and over again. With public figures, these phrases become fodder for late night comedians. Think, for example, of President Obama’s “Let me be clear,” or Donald Trump’s use of the word “bigly.”
Individuals in the workplace also get identified with certain phrases. This allows others to predict their response to various issues or suggestions. For example, if the boss says, “I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” you probably know her well enough to understand whether she actually wants more data or if the idea is already dead in the water.
People are not always aware that they use phrases repeatedly or that many of them are so annoying to others. A few examples include:
•”Yes, but ….”
•”You’ve got to be kidding.”
•”It doesn’t really matter.”
•”The real problem is …..”
•”Let me explain.”
•”Hear me out.”
•”Let me finish.”
•”That’s not a fair statement.”
•”This may be a dumb question, but …..
•”Let me play devil’s advocate.”
If you don’t think you overuse any phrases at work, check with two or three of your colleagues. You may be surprised at how easily they come up with one. When you know what it is, you will be able to recognize it and better limit its use.
With practice, you can improve your verbal quality and become more proficient in professional exchanges and presentations. It is always helpful to watch and listen closely when a person you admire is speaking. In addition to the message content, notice their mannerisms, their tone, their phraseology, and how they command the floor.
If you feel you need some polish for your own performance, consider taking a refresher course on public speaking or working with a colleague in your communications department. Also, taking advantage of any available media training is a good way to enhance your speaking skills. All of these will make a difference, but being able to “hear yourself” is the very first step.