Have you ever been in the midst of a conversation with someone, and been so completely distracted by the way that they speak that you completely missed what they were trying to say? Their delivery somehow muddled their message for you, and the effectiveness of their words was cut short by the way they were communicated to you.
Differences in communication styles have a significant impact on how well we are able to understand and work with one another. People often make judgements and assumptions about others based on the way that they speak, and many times we draw on diction and inflection as ways to infer and build connections with others.
While we can’t always help certain things about the way we speak – like our accent, innate vocabulary, etc. – we can avoid a few of the most common communication pitfalls that affect people in the workplace. So, whether you’re preparing to give a presentation, gearing up for a networking event, or simply looking to speak to a colleague or superior, being cognizant of eliminating these from your everyday speech will help ensure that your message is being conveyed clearly, and that the person to whom you’re speaking takes you seriously.
- – Vocal Fry
You know that thing that people sometimes do where they make their voice sound like a deflating balloon? That’s vocal fry. It can best be observed among people who bring their voice to a lower register as they complete a sentence – examples of famous people who use this communication style often are Britney Spears and any of the Kardashian clan (see below).
Unfortunately, people (particularly women) who use this speaking technique are often perceived as less competent, less educated, and less hireable in the workplace.
- – Upspeak /Uptalk
Upspeak (or Uptalk) is one of the most contentious trends in communication over the last 20-30 years. A quick search of YouTube will foster results from as early as 1994, where people were lamenting the use of the technique even back then. While there is little agreement to be found on where upspeak itself originates, what is clear is that it is a vocal trend that is almost universally considered annoying and unprofessional. It can be most easily characterized as ending declarative statements with an “up” sound, giving the indication that you are asking a questions instead of stating something outright.
Upspeak is often considered to be unprofessional because it undermines the speaker’s level of competence in the eyes of the listener. Ending each statement by appearing to ask a question gives the impression that the speaker is not confident in what he or she is saying, and that impression of lost confidence (whether accurate or not) often causes the listener to lost confidence in them as well.
- – Crutches
“Ah” – “Umm” – “Like” – “You know…” – How often do you use one or more of these words when speaking to others? Words like those above are considered to be “fillers”, and are typically seen as crutches that help a person when he or she is at a momentary loss for words, or is not entirely sure of what he or she is speaking about. Often we use them without thinking, and don’t even notice when they escape from our lips.
But other people notice them.
As with the other two speech patterns discussed here, crutches can have a negative impact on your ability to communicate well with others because their use conveys a lack of confidence and/or competence. Often people who overuse crutches give the impression that they are either lying outright or that they don’t have a clear grasp on what they are talking about.
The key takeaway from each of these communication killers is that it is crucial to display confidence and competence when speaking with others, particularly in the workplace. If you give the impression that you are unsure of yourself and what you are saying, you run the risk of being passed over and not being taken seriously. Be cognizant not only of what you are saying, but also of how you are saying when speaking with others.