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"Can You Hear Me Now?" Communicating With A Pause To Enhance Leadership

by Shonali Burke on March 2, 2010

Editor’s Note: this is the second in a guest post series of two on crystal-clear communications by author Stacey Hanke

Um, Er, What I Mean To Say Is…

Another uh, challenge we have, you know, that is preventing, um, us from, like, getting to the point, um, are the words, you know, that clutter, you know, our language.

When you hear your female leaders using these words in italics, how do you perceive them?  Knowledgeable, credible and confident probably don’t come to mind.

The number one challenge women need to overcome if they want to influence, is the ability to replace their non-words with a pause.

We use non-words to buy ourselves time to think about what we want to say.

These words become distracting and your listener misinterprets your message. Instead, give your listeners time to hear and understand your message.

Give yourself permission to think on your feet by replacing your non-words with pauses. Speak in shorter thoughts or sentences.

As a result, you will:

  • Get to the point and avoid rambling.
  • Hold your listener’s attention.
  • Gain control over your message and how you communicate your message.
  • Give your listeners time to hear, understand and act on what you say.

When we’re trying to break old habits, it’s difficult to accomplish this grueling task on our own because we’re unaware of our behavior and our word choice.

The key to creating new habits is to receive immediate feedback to make a change.

Without immediate feedback you’ll:

  • Continue to be in denial.
  • Choose to use qualifiers and non-words.
  • Annoy your listeners because you never get to the point.
  • Be perceived with a lack of knowledge, confidence, trust and credibility.

How can you make sure your communication isn’t breaking up and negatively impacting your business?

1. Give yourself permission to think on your feet. You may be using over-qualifiers to buy yourself time.

In reality, they don’t help you think on your feet. Instead, they throw you off. PAUSE to give yourself the time you need to collect your thoughts so that you sound confident, credible and knowledgeable.

2. Pre-plan.  Prior to a meeting or face-to-face conversation, take the time to think through your words and choose words that will tap into what’s important to your listeners.

3.  Videotape yourself delivering a presentation, facilitating a meeting or having a face-to-face conversation.  When you review the tape, ask yourself the following:

  • “Is what I’m saying consistent with how I say it?”
  • “What worked and didn’t work for me and for my listener?”
  • “What can I do and say to increase my confidence, credibility and trust?
  • Here’s the most challenging question of them all, “Could I sit through my presentation, meeting or face-to-face conversation more than once?”

Enhancing our communication is a lifelong process.

The advantage you have as a leader is that you have numerous opportunities to practice and enhance your ability to communicate with impact and influence.

Practice doesn’t make perfect.  Practice makes permanent.

Want more? Here you go:

  • Stacey Hanke’s first post in this two-part series on crystal-clear communications
  • Take this quiz from MindTools to evaluate your communication skills

Stacey Hanke

Image: Tim Parkinson, Creative Commons

Stacey 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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