Archives for February 2010

Rid Yourself of Damaging Word-Habits!

by Stephanie Bickel

Perhaps you have convinced yourself that your speech is not a problem. You are getting by fine because you can hide behind email and supervisors or managers. Perhaps, you have continued to advance in your career despite your less than eloquent elocution. Why have you procrastinated this work? Clearly people with excellent phrasing and superior vocabularies are impressive. Why wouldn’t you want to join their leagues and meet a new level of success in your career? Here are some quick-tips that will elevate your elocution immensely.

1. Eliminate the Digestive Noises: Um and Ah and Uh!

Listen to yourself and others. Everyone is doing it. Let the habit annoy and frustrate you in all who do it. This is the first step to changing the habit. Find out why you are doing it. Are you trying to signal to your audience that you still have the floor? Are you off-gliding on your consonants like, “I am, and-UH he is.” If this is a habit of yours, strive to accept silence and final consonant endings. Be comfortable with the silence and resume speaking when the thought is there. People who use “um” to illustrate their thought process appear less sure and less knowledgeable. If they knew what they were saying, they would not stall with “um.”


Eliminate the approximators, “sort of” and “kind of.” These words make you appear less than sure of your ideas. If you are less than sure, call it an approximation. Never use these approximators in this format, “I sort of think we should wait.” This is passive language. It shows weakness! If this is a habit of yours, determine if there is an environment where this language is appropriate. Monitor your usage of these phrases and eliminate the inappropriate usage. A true leader would never use such weak language.

3. Stop the stalling and clarifying!

“Basically…,” “My Point is…,” “What I’m Trying to Say is…” Reduce the use of stallers and clarifiers. The easiest way to annoy an audience is to tell them through your language usage that you were wasting their time prior to this point. Long-winded speakers without a point often use these phrases. Audiences tune out and become hostile when they hear them. Monitor your usage and abusage.


Reduce the GET in your language! You sound like you have never seen a college entrance exam. GET is a rough word that lacks all finesse. It is neither a motivator nor a seller! Observe your speaking to determine if this is a habit of yours. By substituting other words for GET, you polish your image dramatically! Write down the phrases you use that involve GET. Write out alternatives for them. Post a note on your desk of your GET habits reminding you to substitute words like obtain, acquire, gather, find, and retrieve for GET.

5. Reduce the JUST – Addiction

“I JUST thought it would be good to have a meeting.” “I JUST don’t think that’s right.” “I JUST thought I would add another point.” “It JUST doesn’t make sense.” What does the excess use of JUST signal? An excuse! I call it the whiney-excuse word. People who feel threatened or weak, use JUST. It is not the language of someone in a position of power.

6. Avoid Absolutes!

Do you prefer absolutes when conveying your ideas? “This software always works.” “That firm never executes on time.” When using absolutes, you are asking to be proved wrong. Substitute often for always and rarely for never. In sales professions, it may be appropriate to use absolutes. Telling a customer that “This price is often lower than competitors’ prices” will probably not give you the sale. If you are in sales, use absolutes sparingly so you do not diminish their weight.

7. Reduce Failure

Everyone makes mistakes, but the language experts know how to present them. Be cautious describing your failures or mistakes to others. Avoid the following words: wrong, mistake, and failure. Those are strong words that people can attach to their perception of you. Substitute those with: experienced growing pains, achieved limited success, misstep, mischaracterization, or fell short of expectations. Take some time to write out a plan for how you will handle your next misstep.

8. Leave High School Slang Behind

“That sucks.” “That’s awesome.” “Cool!” “Wicked!” “Cheesy.” “What a tool!” “Like… no.” The older and more established you are, the more charming it is to use such phrases – but do it SPARINGLY. An older executive using “cool” can be charming. Otherwise, eliminate the slang of yesterday! A younger professional using high school slang will appear less than experienced, less than mature, and less than articulate. Find substitutes for your habit words!

9. Stop the Excessive MM-HM

Do you have the need to show your agreement and attention by excessive head bobbing and humming agreement? This is an acceptable tool at a minimum. However, as a habit, it is distracting and reduces your power. Using excessive agreement in conversation gives your power away! Although you are putting your colleague at ease, the colleague may become too comfortable with you. Put all this agreement energy in your eyes! That will show your colleague that he has your attention, but you will maintain the power in the conversation.

10. Stop bullying for support.

“Y’know?” “You know what I mean?” These are bullying phrases. People who abuse these phrases are seeking to gain instant support for poorly explained ideas. Instead of properly describing ideas or motivating others, these abusers care more about the ends versus the means. These people miss details and offend listeners who feel bullied into agreement. People who use these phrases tend to race through details and to lack patience and focus. This habit is an enormous turn-off to an audience.

Copyright Stephanie Bickel, Ltd.

Stephanie Bickel is an image consultant for Speak by Design. Private and group instruction is available for individuals, couples, and organizations interested in improving speech, presence, and creativity. Speak by Design offers courses for accent reduction, vocal development, power presence, team building, and stage fright. Visit for more information.

The Six Things Clients Want

I found this article fascinating. I’m mostly re-posting it here because I don’t want to lose the information. I want to put these points into practice.

by Rishad

I have had the privilege of working with some of the finest companies. Yesterday, as I heard input from a Client on what they value and expect most from outside partners, it struck me that across industries, across the world and across client sizes, everyone is asking pretty much for the same six things.

Three of these are outputs and three focus on how the partner works.

Outputs: Insights, Ideas, Inspiration.
Process: Collaboration, Iteration, Operating Discipline

1. Insights: Clients pay the highest premium in not just economic value but their attention and their admiration to firms that bring them insights about their customers or their business. I have seen businesses saved and businesses poached away by firms that could provide a new way of understanding the marketplace. Something that is so obvious and yet not obvious. If we are living in an age where consumers are in control, understanding them is critical.

2.Inspiration: Agencies and outside partners see a world different than a Client. Most work across different industries and have a different employee mix. Clients in these changing times want to know how they benchmark against the best. Not just their industry, but across industries. Showing them examples, taking them to conferences, bringing in outside experts, all speak to this hunger, while underlining that their partners are in touch with changes happening around them.

3.Ideas: In the end despite debate as to whether Clients pay adequately for ideas, it is clear that Clients care a lot about ideas and without a good flow of them it is hard for an outside partner to remain valuable. Even if a Client does not buy the ideas, the inability to present ideas, including ones that stretch and are out there, often is reason for the Clients eye to wander. Best partners provide “gifts” of a big idea or two every few months.

While insight, inspiration and ideas are the wings of a healthy partnership, there are some processes or ways of working that are as important and often can carry a relationship when the ideas, insights and inspiration are wanting or can challenge a partnership when not present even if ideas, inspiration and insights are flowing.

4.Collaboration: Clients hate (and it is not to strong a word) the lack of collaboration between their various partners and agencies. They resent having to baby sit grownups who cannot play together. They see the friction as a loss of time and economic value. As industries blur in the digital world and many partners all claim expertise or rights to the same area ( e.g. “social”) this has become an obsession with Clients. The words “childish”, “soap-operatic” and ” I wish I could dump the whole lot and start again” are heard. Yes, often the Client’s incentives and structures encourage the petty and insecure behavior we engage in when our turf emotions and short term economic incentives make us forget the big picture. The big picture is that clients are trying to build economic value of their brands via insights, ideas and inspiration and frankly will reward for that.

5. Improvement and Iteration:In a world of change is the outside partner improving themselves. Are they remaining curious, challenging the status quo and remaining curious, cutting costs, becoming more productive? Clients are under intense pressure to enhance productivity and are looking for their partners to become more productive themselves. This is not just about cutting costs but also developing better creative, re-using ideas from one part of the globe in an other, eliminating or automating things that can be.

6. Operating Discipline:This is the least sexy and interesting part of what Clients want because in many ways they expect it. Can their partner actually run their own business by managing budgets, schedules, legal clearances and the like. Are they responsiveness and do they staff with capable people. Can the agency or partner make the trains run on time, read the signals and ensure the engine stays on track? The wrong ad shipped to the wrong media company, lack of legal approval and non responsiveness in an emergency get folks fired all the time.

Every quarter or six months it behooves anyone serving a Client to ask themselves and then their clients:

1. What ideas, insight or outside inspiration and stimulation did we provide?
2. How can I be more collaborative, how can I get my Client to help me be more collaborative?
3. What specifics can I share with the Client as to how I improved my offerings and services recently?

The big benefits of a healthy relationship of trust, respect, wealth and a true partnership ensue as a result of being able to deliver on the six clients wants over time.