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Language of a Leader

Date: February 4, 2019

Leadership Executive Communications Coaching

As a leader, accuracy in communication and language is imperative. That means not over-emphasizing negatives or positives. Many audiences complain about the overload of information and the over-answering of questions when a simple explanation or direct answer will do.

You can undermine your credibility by rambling on too long in both verbal and written communication. In addition, many communicators have habits that detract from their credibility which can become more pronounced when they are nervous or frustrated. Sometimes they are oblivious to them. Non words like “uhm” and “ah” are used to fill dead air space while they are searching for the next word. When used in abundance, the person comes across as lost, insecure, unprepared and ineffective.

Pausing instead of using a non-word is preferable however most people believe the pause will make them sound less effective. In reality, the opposite is true. The pause is one of the best tools a leader can master for its ability to allow them to “think on their feet”. Words and phrases such as “you know”, “kind of”, “sort of”, “I mean”, “well”, and “so”, are called hedges and they are often used to lessen the impact of a point. They also make us sound unsure about our material and create doubt in the mind of the audience. The word “so” is particularly overused in scientific, data and academic presentations. Intensifiers are words that try to create more impact but have the effect of making us sound insincere and overly effusive.

For example, “this is really the most important development in a really long time.” Seems silly but is surprisingly common in presentations. Listen for the particular words or phrases that you fall back on most often. You can break the habit but only if you can hear yourself as others hear you.