Unlike a typical art form, however, most don’t practice this one or try to get better at it.
When I say practice I’m not talking about having better pronunciation or enunciation, I’m talking about practicing the ability to communicate effectively.
As an Account Executive, I spend a lot of my time speaking to clients and if I can’t communicate the status of a deliverable effectively, I mismanage expectations.
In the world of client services, mismanaged expectations are a huge no-no. Unhappy clients are bad for business.
Perception is reality when it comes to conversation and most people can sniff out someone with a hidden agenda or someone who is disingenuous from a mile away.
Even if you are, in fact, genuine, if it is not perceived as such by receiver, you might as well be lying to their face.
This communication breakdown is what causes problems for so many people in their personal and professional lives.
So, if the way you speak is an indicator of how you want to be perceived, why aren’t more people sharpening this skill?
Julian Treasure has done a fantastic job of breaking down this and other communication dysfunctions into a few, actionable categories.
Here are my two favorite takeaways from his TED Talk:
7 Deadly Sins of Speaking
These are things you should be avoiding when it comes to communication. Some of these items may feel obvious but it’s good to take the reminder.
This is conversation about other people’s current status or speaking poorly of someone who isn’t present. It is generally advised to stay away from this type of conversation.
Do you find yourself forming opinions and conclusions about people and voicing it to people? This type of conversation can be very difficult to hear and be around because they are often negative. Which brings me to the next deadly sin.
It’s easy to fall into this trap especially if those around you are negative. This is when someone's contribution to a conversation is usually an expression of criticism or pessimism. Also, not fun to be around and can quickly cause people to tune out.
Julian refers to complaining as viral misery, the expression of dissatisfaction about the situation. It’s easy to do but hard to catch yourself doing.
Everyone has done it. The blame thrower. People never want to listen to someone who never takes responsibility for their actions.
This is talking about things as if they are really much better or worse than they really are. It demeans our language and discredits your word when things aren’t as you depicted them -- and quickly becomes lying. No one likes a liar!
Dogmatism is when someone tells you their opinions are facts without consideration of evidence or the opinions of others. This hurts your ability to establish trust.
These are all the things you should make sure to avoid in your speech. In all reality this is pretty basic stuff but a great reminder that your words really do matter.
4 Cornerstones of Powerful Speaking
Now, the good news about identifying the things above is that we can derive four really positive and powerful cornerstones of speaking to make a change in the world with our communication.
Julian broke this down into an appropriately named acronym, HAIL, and the definition is just as fitting -- “To greet or acclaim enthusiastically.”
Being true, clear. To speak fee of deceit.
The act of standing in your own truth. Be yourself; Accurate, reliable, and genuine.
Be your word. Being undivided.
Not to be confused with romantic love, this is wishing someone well and showing genuine interest. Julian theorizes that if you are to genuinely wish someone well it is impossible to judge them at the same time.
Can You Hear Me Now?
With all this in mind, hopefully you’ll have an easier time taking retrospective approach when someone tells you “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”.
The voice is an amazing toolbox and I encourage you to take this to account in your personal and professional life and use this knowledge to be a better communicator for your friends, family, audience, and clients.