Ever notice that sometimes in meetings or conversation other professionals do not seem to take you seriously? You are trying to make a point but your listeners roll their eyes, look bored, or act fidgety. Do they wish they were someplace else or just want you to get on with it or…
For whatever reason, they are not giving your words and thoughts the weight they deserve. This can be very frustrating because you frequently have no idea why it is happening or what you can or should do about it.
Laurie Schloff, senior consultant at Boston’s The Speech Improvement Company, suggests that sometimes you may have verbal and nonverbal behaviors that undermine your credibility and authority. They make you sound unsure, tentative, and lacking in power. This tends to be a communication problem that affects women more than men. Therefore, women lawyers need to be particularly aware of this habit in their casual conversations.
One such habit is “Qualifying.” This is where you add phrases like “sort of,” “kind of,” “maybe,” and “just” to what you say. This takes away from the strength and directness of your communication. For example: “I kind of wish you’d call when you’re going to be late,” instead of “Please call when you are going to be late.”
A second is “Hedging or Apologizing.” This is where you say something then take it back at the same time. It suggests that you are reluctant to express yourself and fear being evaluated. For example: “I don’t know if you’re going to like this but I thought I ought to comment, if that’s okay with you, about the room color,” instead of “I have a comment about the room color.”
A third is “Rising Inflection at the End of Sentence.” This is where you make a statement sound like a question. For example: “If you’re not sure what I mean, I could show you?” instead of “If you are not sure what I mean, I could show you.”
A fourth is “Tag Lines.” This is where you tack a question onto the end of a statement that asks for reassurance. For example: “So you liked the presentation, didn’t you?” instead of “So you liked the presentation.”
These are speech habits that have become automatic. But simply being aware of them, listening for them, and logging them in a small notebook every time you utter them, you can eliminate them over time. Direct, affirmative, unequivocal statements are always stronger than equivocations and questions.