Are You Asking People to Ignore You?

Oh, not in so many words.

But are you:

  • Trailing off at the end of your sentences?
  • Prefacing your ideas with “This probably won’t work, but…”?
  • Inflecting your voice up at the end of each sentence? So that even a statement of fact comes out sounding like a question?
  • Thinking faster than you talk so that you leap from one idea to the next without a connecting statement to bring others along?
  • Adding “I don’t know…” to the end of your ideas?
  • Asking “What do you think?” after every opinion you express?
  • Inserting more than one “um” or “like” fillers into each sentence?
  • Looking down the table or your lap while you talk?

Any of these verbal tics send the message that you can be ignored. That you’re not really sure of what you’re saying, so why should anyone else be?

We all stumble over phrases sometimes, or try to say something and have it come out mangled or inarticulate. You can survive that. But what you can’t survive is a consistent pattern of downplaying yourself. If you always ‘qualify’ your contributions with ‘This may be dumb, but — “ or “I’m not sure about this, but — “, pretty soon the people who listen to you will stop listening.

You can train yourself out of any of these habits, and the payoff is pretty huge. If you dread public speaking, it’s hard to go from there to loving it — but it’s relatively much easier to train yourself out of ending sentences with a question intonation, or replacing “um” with a deliberate pause.

And the payoff is amazing — this is like Stupid Human Psychology Tricks 101 — getting rid of these verbal tics is like automatically getting credit for being 20% smarter. Watch for it the next meeting you’re in — and better yet, use this one for yourself.