People Management

5 verbal communication keys that should ring the alarm

Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

A good listener pays attention not only to the message,  but also to its packaging: the words used to deliver it. Here are 5 verbal communication key that should ring the alarm when you hear them:

  1. The word BUT. Everything said in a phrase before the word “BUT” is… bullshit. Especially if it’s an apology.

Example: “I think you’re a great professional, BUT… ” – the person saying this, definitely doesn’t perceive you as a “great” professional.

2. Indefinite articles or words that create distance. This one requires a bit of practice so let’s look at an example:

Given the question: “Who is Peter?” The answers could be:

  • a mate and a great team player -> shows a personal relationship with the responder
  • a member of our team -> he’s part of the ‘team’, but just a member to the person responding (no personal connection)
  • a guy working here -> could not care less if he’s alive or not

Distancing from the subject means declining responsibility for the results, avoiding association or not wanting to have anything to do with the subject.

3. Emphasis in speech. Try reading the following phrases, emphasizing each time the word in bold.

The system’s crash was caused by our team’s script” (focus on effect)

The system’s crash was caused by our team’s script” (focus on pointing fingers)

The system’s crash was caused by our team’s script” (focus on ownership)

The system’s crash was caused by our team’s script” (focus on root cause)

The system’s crash was caused by our team’s script” (focus on magnitude)

Emphasis tells you what to address in response.

4. Possessive pronouns. Good or bad, possessive pronouns used in speech, show a personal connection, typically a form of attachment.

Observe the difference between personal attachment, neutral and distancing:

our project” – “the project” – “this company’s project…”

my team” – “the team” – “that team which…”

my script” – “the script we executed” – “a script that was executed…

Distancing was explained at point #2. Attachment is positive and will result in (over)protection.

5. Words with emotional charge reflect personal perception.

Example: “That’s incorrect” (neutral)

                “That’s wrong / bad” (negative perception)

                “That’s utterly stupid” (offensive)

That’s dishonest / unfair” (personally affected / goes against own values)

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