When you’re on an audio conference call, all you have to communicate about yourself is your voice. While reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, I became acutely aware of how people—particularly women—tend to consistently undermine themselves in everyday communications with small, yet significant, choices. The impact of these choices are cumulative and can erode professional reputation, self-confidence and long-term career progress. Below are seven ways both women and men sabotage themselves every day in meetings—especially during audio calls—and how you can stop making these communication mistakes.
- Does that make sense?
If you ask whether your ideas make sense right after you’ve communicated them, you invalidate your position. Rather than ask if your ideas have made sense to the audience, ensure that your ideas are clearly communicated, maintain eye contact as you look for confused faces, and then pause to ask for questions if you start noticing a few blank stares or furrowed brows.
- Sorry, but…
Similar to the previous point—but more insidious—you are apologizing before you’ve even communicated your point in the first place. And if you aren’t meek in nature, you may be using this as the ultimate passive-aggressive move. On audio calls in particular, the “Sorry, but” is often used as a verbal crowbar to interrupt other speakers or veer conversation off-topic and can undermine positive team chemistry and trust.
- Qualifiers and diluters
Using phrases such as “I almost think/I kind of think” are a similar to apologies in their effect on verbal communications in how they erode the speaker’s power and authority. If you must introduce your thoughts with “I think”—and consider the fact that this implied and doesn’t need to be overtly stated—at least do yourself the favor and don’t water down your own thoughts.
- Worst: I almost think the budgets are getting low.
- Better: I think the budgets are low.
- Best: The budgets are low, and here’s what we need to do about it.
- Crutch words
If you find yourself introducing your thoughts with “actually,” honestly,” or “truthfully,” you’re using crutch words, and they say more about your communication than you think. Unconsciously, we reveal ourselves in the words we are drawn to, not unlike body language “tells,” and though most are harmless, a few can reveal dishonesty or a lack of intelligence, and many are stalling techniques, so don’t think that you are kidding anyone by using them. Read the rest of this entry »