I have been guilty of speaking badly but recently a close friend has challenged me to speak with eloquence or risk losing his friendship. This was a wake up call and made me wonder what else was I loosing in the process of speaking badly. At first I sighted all reasons which validated my behaviour but when all was taken into consideration the costs were way more than the payoffs. Hence an inquiry into what speaking eloquently really means in a generation where short cuts and speed is valued over playing nice.
Since I’ve been very fortunate to have been given various opportunities to learn beside some very successful businessmen, innovators, creative minds I have noticed that whenever you hear these people speak, you hear music. Language is sound. And if you’ve ever heard a beautiful piano sonata or a violin concerto, a bad note in the middle of a stirring melody can really ruin the mood. The same goes for someone who says “uhhh, uhmmmm” before and after every sentence. These are people who are, in some sense, afraid of there being silence in the conversation.The people who speak eloquently know the power of silence, and if forced to pause, use that silence to their advantage. Silence creates suspense, and can either be seen as “uncomfortable” or as an opportunity to make the next statement that much more poignant. There is power here, and the greatest speakers know how to use it to their advantage.Going off the above, people tend to stutter and fill silence when they are nervous, uncomfortable, don’t know what they’re talking about, etc. We all learned this in middle school. The fastest way to make your teacher believe you didn’t do the work was to stand there with your hands in your pockets saying “Uhhh….”
Whether or not you actually are nervous or if you have no idea what you’re talking about is besides the point. It’s what your audience BELIEVES that matters, and these things can be easily concealed with words like “Well; you see; now…”. Instead of saying “Uhm, I was thinking…” you say, “Well, I was thinking…” Very different sounding, yes? These little words, especially “Now” is a filler word that can help you extend silence if you need time to think. Take a moment to pause, say “Now…” pause again, and then move on with what you were going to say. That’s 2 whole seconds you get to formulate your next thoughts.The best talkers leave the jargon at home. Want to know the difference between a new salesman and a seasoned salesman? The new salesman leaves you confused, the seasoned salesman makes you feel like you are more educated than you think.
Jargon is pointless. It’s meant for people at your office, people you work with, to get more done faster. It’s not intended to be flashed around to make people feel impressed. It usually doesn’t impress them. It just makes them confused and feel left out of what the conversation really should be about, which is how to provide value, or an emotional component that is easier to relate to. Think more poetry, less endless prose.The sophisticated don’t use words like fuck, shit, ass, bitch, etc. They just don’t. I myself have a sailer’s mouth, but I also know there’s a time and place for it. The fastest way to earning the trust and respect of those around you is to speak well, and that means eliminating the “gutter” words.Somewhat in line with jargon usage, get to the point and don’t talk around it. There’s no point. Nobody wants to sit through your stream of consciousness. Say what you mean to say in the least amount of words, and then when you get to the meat of what you’re saying, describe it in such detail that the person you’re talking to can envision it with perfect clarity.Details are everything. They’re what our senses and are ultimately what draw us in. It’s the reason why some people are terrific storytellers and others put you to sleep. This is not to be confused with saying “a lot.” It’s not about length. It’s about saying what you mean to say, and saying it well.
Overall breaking old bad habits may be challenging but scientifically when a new habit is introduced consistently and systematically it does become part of our second nature. Until then ill keep you updated on how that goes and hopefully see you all on the flip side where in the long run our sophistication and eloquence pays off big time.