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Don't Let The Power Robbers Sabotage Your Speech
By Marjorie Brody   Printer Friendly Version

All too often, our verbal skills distort our images as capable, knowledgeable professionals. We hem and haw, trying to find the right word, We may even discount ourselves and our ideas without realizing it, or we might unknowingly offend others with our language. All of these verbal faults are Power Robbers. These shortcomings detract from our confidence, authority, professionalism and power.

Fight Back

We are not powerless against the Power Robbers. We can reduce their effect on our speaking habits in three ways:
  • By identifying our own tendencies
  • By correcting the behavior
  • By practicing to permanently replace the bad habit with a good one

Practice does not make perfect; practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes permanent.

Tag questions can be power robbers. These questions at the end of a sentence that give the impression you are unsure of what you just said, or are looking for approval. "I think the proposal is good, don't you? The "don't you" gives the sentence a weak ending. If your aim is to stimulate conversation or encourage feedback, ask an independent question. "I think the proposal is good. What are your impressions? This allows you to say what you think or how you feel and encourage a response without devaluing your original statement.

Hedges and qualifiers are also common power robbers. These are fillers we use when we are uncertain about what we have to say or are uncomfortable with silence. The wells, ums, ahs, likes, and you knows, that have no place in the sentence and become distracting and annoying if they are abundant. Think about what you really want to say and how you are going to say it before you start to speak.

Using Powerful Words

Two of the most powerful words in the English language are you and I. You is most effective when influencing, persuading or selling to someone. The focus should be on the person we are speaking to. Most of our statements in business should be you based. "You're going to love this new copy machine. Imagine all the benefits to you and your company. The word I is best used in a conflict situation. In conflicts, we often begin by accusing and attacking the other person. You were wrong. You made a mistake. You made me look bad. The other person, upon hearing this tirade of You, begins to withdraw or become defensive. Either way the communication has stopped. A more effective way to approach conflict is to use the word I. "I feel that there was a mistake made. I was embarrassed and felt we could have been better prepared." Nothing in that statement is directly accusing yet you are still getting your point across and chances are the other person won't feel defensive.

The idea behind understanding which words send which messages is to make conscious decisions about the words we choose to use. Instead of saying things out of habit, be aware of what you say and create new more effective habits when you speak. Aristotle said, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit." Make sure your habits are good ones.

Article copyright© Brody Communications Ltd. 1999

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