What you say is only as important as what is heard and understood by the listener. Too often, our messages are obscured by the structure of the communication. Even worse is when we are unaware of the gap between what is intended and the message received.
Communication and language are a function of the environment you are in – your organization’s culture. In order to deliver your intended message with clarity and confidence, the structure and word choice should be consistent with that organizational culture. This article provides some suggestions on building awareness of how word choice influences how the message is received. We will also look at how word choice influences perceptions, that is, whether the speaker is seen as credible and confident, or uncertain and evasive. By becoming aware of how language is used around you, you can begin to reduce the gap between your intent and the message received.
Identify three or four business meetings or conference calls that you will be attending this week. Ideal meetings involve people you perceive as successful in the organization. Focus on meetings where your
direct involvement is minimal, or limited to specific agenda items. Teleconferences, where you can readily take notes unobserved, are particularly suitable for this exercise.
Create a form that captures the following information about successful speakers:
- Does the speaker primarily use I, We, You, or They?
- Are statements normally positive (“yes, and …”) or negative (“yes, but …”)?
- What action words / verbs are being used to convey confidence?
- How are concerns or issues raised?
By comparison, monitor the language and word choice of someone whose communication you see as ineffective.
Analyze the Communication
At the end of the week, review your data and write out the answers to the following statements.
- Successful speakers in my company speak primarily from a [first-, second- or third-person] perspective.
- Successful speakers in my company speak about issues and challenges most frequently from a [positive or negative] position.
- Successful speakers in my company use verbs and action words such as ….
- Successful speakers in my company raise concerns or issues in the following ways:
- By contrast, ineffective speakers communicate by …
In the second week, continue to monitor the language and word choices of people within your organization.
- Are you seeing additional patterns of speech that are effective and ineffective?
- In what ways do you see clear and strong messages delivered?
Monitor Your Speaking Patterns
In this second week, begin to evaluate your language and word choices after each important meetings, teleconference or one-on-one conversation. Consider the following questions.
- When did I believe my message was received as intended?
- In those cases, what did I do particularly well?
- In future situations, what patterns of language and word choice do I want to use more consistently?
Create an Action Plan
Once you have built an awareness of how messages are delivered with clarity and confidence in your organization, and become aware how you are delivering messages, it is time to create a personal action plan.
Complete the following sentences.
- The change I will make in my choice of words to portray clarity and confidence as a speaker is ….
- My messages will be clearer to the listener when I ….
- I can measure the change in how I am communicating by ….
Finally, define the impact you will believe the change will have on your results and the perceptions of your capabilities in the workplace.
Change comes through awareness – of your environment and your self, gap identification, commitment and practice. As you move through the steps above, you may notice an immediate change in how you structure your communications and the words you choose. Creating the action plan, a measurement system and a goal for the change, will enable you to turn your newfound awareness into a habit; a habit that enhances your credibility and confidence.
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