Thursday, July 17, 2008

Five Reasons No One Wants to Listen to You at Work

While we spend a lot of time these days using electronic communication, we can never forget the importance of that face-to-face communication that is so critical to our success.

People make a snap judgement about you the minute you meet them. They check out what you're wearing, how your hair looks, if you smell good (or at least, not bad) and then they wait for you to open your mouth.

And that's when many of us really screw up.

So, let's consider the some of the ways we make others wish we'd never speak again:

1. Upspeak. "I am so glad to meet you? I have a lot of good information for you regarding your marketing campaign? It's going to bring you lots of publicity?"
Well, is it or isn't it? For goodness' sake, when you express every thought as if it were a question, you sound like a junior high kid working a bake sale. This was a bad trend started decades ago, and it has stuck around longer than most marriages. Dump it. It makes you sound unsure, immature and unprofessional. Got it?

2. Like. I like ice cream. I like getting a pay raise. What I don't like is anyone using "like" too much. This also used to be only a speech pattern associated with 13-year-old adolescents sporting a mouthful of braces. Unfortunately, now it's permeating cubicles.
"I, like, didn't even get, like, a chance to give my report to like, the client?" you say to your boss.
So, now the boss is wondering: Did you give the report or not? Sprinkling "like" throughout your speech pattern a little bit may be OK, but it's a hard habit to break and can become a big problem. It's time to drop the "likes" from your speech. It makes your message muddled, and is annoying because, like, it takes you like, about, like forever to spit something out. If you're not sure you're guilty of it, record a phone conversation and see if you have developed this unlikeable habit.

3. Using words inappropriately. Do you say "acrossed" when you mean "across"? Or say "for all intensive purposes" instead of "for all intents and purposes"? If you have any hopes of rising through the ranks of your profession, nothing makes others snigger behind your back more than you mucking up words or phrases. Check out online sites that can help you spot some of your goofs and improve them.

4. Laughing. At everything. This can take on a couple of different forms. There's giggling and there's the laughing "huff" that is supposed to be a self-deprecating maneuver on the part of the speaker, but just becomes weird after a while.
Some examples:
"I couldn't get the client's office because I forgot to bring the directions." (giggle, giggle).
"I told him what a bad idea that was since we didn't have near enough time to redesign the website (huff, huff), and especially since I was short handed (huff, huff).

By this time others listening to your giggling and huffing are thinking: What's so funny?
Often the constant giggling, laughing, huffing, snorting, etc., are protective gestures that come about because the person is nervous about communicating a message. The key is to learn to take a deep breath when speaking, and to use your hands more when talking. This is an old trick that will help you keep your breathing even, and keep you from talking too fast and resorting to huffing and laughing your way through a conversation.

5. Saying "I think." Always begin your comments with authority, and saying "I think" makes it sound like you're somehow not 100 percent sure about your opinion. So, instead of saying, "I think we should contract with that company because they're progressive and innovative," you say, "That company is innovative and progressive and would be a great partner for us."
See how that sounds much more assured, more authoritative? You now give off the vibe that you know what you're talking about, that others should believe you and you're an authority on the subject.

These are all pretty simple fixes, but could make a huge difference in the image you present to others. Talk to friends or family about what could be some of your speech "crutches" or record yourself and look for ways to improve. It's worth the time and effort to make sure others are listening to what you have to say.

What other bad habits should people break that hurt their careers?

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Anonymous said...

Lordy! You hit it out of the ballpark with this one. I work with a man who invades your personal space when he talkes to you. Also, he has a bad habit of spitting when he talks. Thanks, but one shower a day is enough for me. I run when I see him coming.

Anita said...

That's a story that I hear too often...someone does something at work to make people RUN when they see him or her coming. That's why I think it's so important that we sort of give ourselves "mini-me reviews" that help us pinpoint how our own behavior can hurt our career.
Thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

I once worked with a woman who twirled her hair while she was thinking and it always made her look like an airhead. I think the same can be said for most nervous habits (popping gum, cracking knuckles, etc.)

Anonymous said...

Hello there Anita:

This made me giggle and guffaw - in other words, I enjoyed it!

The one where you wrote about the word "like" reminded me of someone I know from church who uses it every other word. He's a grown man who talks like a giddy teenager with braces. It's hilarious. Thanks for the light moment.

Anita said...

I once worked with a woman who twirled her hair over and over in the same spot...and she eventually started to develope a bald spot. But that still didn't stop her. I found myself watching her twirling her hair instead of listening to what she was saying. Very distracting. Thanks for posting!

Anita said...

This "like" business has become a real issue at our house because we have teenagers. I refuse to have them sound so goofy...I'm always saying, "Is it LIKE something or is it really that way??" I get a lot of "OH,MOM!" But I think they'll be grateful (one day) when they don't speak that way as grown men.
Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I know a woman who used all of those "behaviors" and got promoted -TWICE!
She couldn't spell nor do math but ended up managing a marketing department. It wasn't about her working for a lower salary because her salary kept going up substantially too. Maddening!