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Say It Like You Mean It

If you want others to believe you, you have to sound like you believe it yourself. That’s common sense, which is unfortunately not as common as it should be. A big reason is the near-ubiquity of three verbal habits that can make you sound as if you are unsure of yourself.

Let’s pick on the younger set first. It’s hard to sound like you mean what you’re saying when you question yourself at the end of every statement. That’s what you do when you engage in uptalk, which is a rising intonation at the end of a sentence that makes it sound like you’re asking a question? It used to be something I only heard in California, but now it seems to be everywhere?

Like is the next one. It has, like, replaced um as the universal, like, filler word. Don’t tell me what something is like, tell me what it is. The cliché is not, “it is what it is like”, or “it is like what it is”. You sound as if you don’t completely believe in the actual thing, so you want to float a trial balloon by telling the listener what something resembles and then seeing how they react.

The third one is you know, and ironically the people who use it the most are the least likely to know. It’s probably just coincidence, but I’ve heard this one more often recently in my coaching sessions. People are being told they need to communicate more credibly, and when they call me to talk about it, it’s one of the first things I notice. In every single case, when I ask them if they know what their crutch word is, every single person has been unaware of it.

Kids should sound different than their parents. It’s their way of expressing their own individuality and separating their generation from the one that came before. But when they enter the workforce, it’s time to put away childish things and fit in with the team.

But at least young people have the excuse that they pick up the habits early in life and haven’t yet made the effort to reform them. It’s the older folks who don’t have an excuse. I’m referring to people in their 40s and even 50s who sound like they’re channeling their inner child. Like some of the senior citizens you see on Fort Lauderdale beach wearing swimsuits that they might have borrowed from their grandchildren, it’s just not credible, to put it kindly.

Like, I think you should, you know, say it like you mean it?

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