If you want to kill your ability to influence individuals or groups with an idea, just equivocate. That’s when you use words and phrases that project a feeling of vagueness, evasiveness, and even a lack of preparedness or knowledge.
Truthfully, we all struggle with this because it feels safe or less-egotistical to use language like “sort of,” “kind of,” and “I think/feel.” But when the stakes are high, no one gets persuaded when we insert those all-to-common equivocations.
Consider the following and see how the word “kinda” is not only unnecessary, but creates needless questions for the audience:
Bad: “This is kinda like the proposal presented in 2016.”
Good: “This is like to the proposal presented in 2016.”
Bad: “I think this is a good plan and I recommend we move ahead.”
Good: “This is a good plan and I recommend we move ahead.”
Simply put, the good examples create a sense of confidence in the mind of the audience – which solidifies the strength of the message AND the person delivering the message.
Other Communication Faux Pas
The English language is littered with phrases, cliches, and jargon that handicap our communication and undermine our credibility. Let’s take a closer look so they can be avoided or completely removed from our critical communications.
“Do you have a few minutes?”
When has this ever held true? Even if you are keeping track – which is unprofessional – we often say it to comfort the listener. Instead, acknowledge their time constraints and get to the point. Try this: “I know we’re both busy, but could I run an idea about issue X past you?” By inserting the subject, you help the listener create a framework which improves the rate of acceptance they will listen.
“You’re not going to like this, but…” or “You probably won’t like this idea, but…”
Even if you believe this self-fulfilled prophesy – which you shouldn’t – why telegraph it? We do it to soften the blow, but does it really do that? No. In fact, it under-cuts your message before you even give it whereas, straight up, the message may have been received less critically. Instead, just deliver the message or find a way to couch and deliver it so it can be received more favorably.
Clichés and Jargon
At some point every cliché was a cool new neighbor – they were clever, interesting, and sometimes even humorous. However, cliché’s always wear out their welcome from over use. So why is it bad to use over-used phrases? If you throw to many of them out as part of your presentation, discussion, or media interview, you could be projecting a lack of creativity, sophistication, or even situational wisdom. This creates a credibility gap and hurts your impact.
Industry jargon also deserves a mention. Always assume your audience doesn’t understand jargon. Even colleagues in the same line of work may not always get some jargon, particularly in certain contexts. It’s fun too throw new words together like “breadcrumbing” and “crowdbirthing” to see what sticks, but inevitably your listener will get hung up on the fact that you used such a bizarre word that they totally miss your message.
So let’s all work on removing the words, phrases, clichés, and jargon that may look or sound perfect, but in reality distract or damage our ability to influence.