"Can You Hear Me Now?" Top Tips On Crystal-Clear Communications

by Shonali Burke on February 25, 2010

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part guest post series on crystal clear communications.

We don’t know what we don’t know and this is why communication can be challenging.

How many of us can honestly say we’re 100% sure our messages are heard and that we’re always perceived as confident, credible and trustworthy?  If our customers’, peers’ and associates’ perception of us isn’t positive, we negatively impact profits, morale and the ability to grow our business.

As a leader inspired to grow your business, you must be able to clearly communicate.

Most of us are under the blurred assumption; “If I communicate a message, it’s heard.”  In reality, your message may not have been heard at all.

What makes it difficult for our listeners to hear and understand our message is that we over-qualify what we want to say before we make our point.

Women over-qualify more than men.  Why don’t we just say what we mean?

For example, a client asked me to observe her interaction with her team to identify her strengths and areas of improvement. As I was doing so, I quickly realized it was her choice of words that was minimizing her confidence, authority and professionalism.

Before she’d make a point she’d say, “I’m probably way off base here …”

– She was shooting her credibility in the foot without realizing what she was doing.

When members of her team would ask her a question she’d begin her response with, “To be honest with you …”

- Does this mean she was lying prior to their questions?

We fall into a trap of not getting to the point.

Women leaders frequently communicate to me they don’t want to come across as aggressive or too strong. Therefore they begin their statements with qualifiers.  These qualifiers minimize your credibility, confidence and trust.

Imagine how much time you could save in meetings and face-to-face conversations if you would get to the point.

Last week during my observation of a client’s meeting, she opened the meeting with the following statement: “I want to ask you a question. What is your number one challenge for working smarter?”

Just ask it!

Her message and presence would’ve been more powerful if she would’ve opened her session with: “What is your number one challenge for working smarter?” Do you hear the difference between these two examples?


When speaking to clients, peers and associates, be careful of using the following qualifiers:

  • “I was wondering if we might consider …”
  • “I think …”
  • “I’m probably way off base here …”
  • “This might be a stupid idea, but …”
  • “To be honest with you …”
  • “I’m going to tell you a story.”

Beginning TODAY ask your peers, friends and family to immediately let you know when you use these qualifiers.  You then can begin communicating with clearer and more concise messages.

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Image: floeschie‘s Flickrstream, Creative Commons

Stacey HankeStacey Hanke is founder of 1st Impression Consulting, Inc. Author of Yes You Can!  Everything You Need From A to Z To Influence Others To Take Action.  Visit www.1stimpressionconsulting.com.

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