Tech & Work

What does the way you speak say about you?

Your formal presentations aren't the only time people judge you by your words. Everyday conversation is even more important in developing a leadership style that people can respect.

The way we speak in normal conversation, formal presentations, and meetings contributes to people’s perceptions about our professionalism, education, and competence. While speech and public speaking training can refine and enhance our speaking skills, it is often the informal, everyday things we say that erode our professional credibility.

The words we say and the way we say them tell a lot about who we are—more than we might imagine. Here are a few suggestions for using your words to retain the respect and support of your staff.
This article originally appeared in the Performance Perspectives newsletter and appears under an exclusive arrangement with TechRepublic.
Guilt by association
Coworkers and colleagues who constantly interject a string of buzzwords and the “phrase of the day” don’t impress others much with their knowledge of “what’s happening” in the business world. These jargon-repeaters are annoying and often lose their credibility with their peers.

Are you guilty of relying on the litany of buzzwords (an example in itself of an annoying term)? Check this list to see how many of these find their way into your conversations and presentations. Which ones do you find the most aggravating? Make a note of your choices, and use them wisely from now on.

Say it correctly
Another communication glitch occurs when common words are mispronounced. Adding extra syllables, using incorrect endings, and using a word incorrectly can capture the kind of attention that you don’t want. To put an end to your misguided wording, ask a close friend or colleague if he or she is aware of any words you continually mispronounce.

Accents particular to various geographic regions and countries often add interesting aspects to our speech, and they typically do not detract from your communication efforts unless they impact the listener’s understanding.

Terms of endearment
Aside from creating the potential for sexual harassment litigation, those men and women who use terms of endearment in the workplace reduce their level of professionalism and credibility. Under no circumstances should any employee—male or female—use words that imply a non-professional relationship or environment. These terms of endearment include hon, honey, dear, doll, babe, sweetheart, and son.

It is just as offensive and unprofessional when female employees use terms of endearment to refer to other women in the workplace as when male employees use the same terms.

Watch your mouth
Are you guilty of using profanity at work and in related situations? While something may slip out once in a while—when you shut a drawer on your finger or spill a cup of hot coffee in your lap—repeated use of profane language is not acceptable in the workplace. Not only does it create an uncomfortable environment, but this language may also be construed as sexual harassment.

Watch what you say in the workplace. It says a lot about who you are.

Elaine Cherry Wood, a principal of M.E. Associates, has more than 29 years of experience in business development, marketing, and organizational communication. Having served as a consultant and trainer for the past 16 years, Elaine specializes in identifying and resolving issues that impact performance, productivity, and profitability.

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