Are irritants weakening your business communication skills?

Business communication skillsIrritants or awkward pause fillers might be doing more harm to your business communication skills than you know. You may not know it, but your colleagues might be controlling their urge to shut you up!

As an ambitious professional seeking to carve out a niche for yourself in the higher echelons of the business world, self-improvement would be a high-priority item on your career growth to-do list. Apart from the technical skills that are so critical for your success, you’ve probably also been making a conscious effort to improve your business communication skills.

This includes your body language and the way you talk. We wrote another post earlier on body language tips.

Business communication skills: How irritants may be harming you

The need to focus on the personal impact is more pronounced for professionals in a client facing role or in the marketing team where you could be the face of your company.

There may be certain problem areas that no one might have pointed out to you, so you need to do a self-check on areas where there’s scope for improvement.

Other than the head bobble (constant head nodding) which is commonly associated with Indians, there’s another irritant which may not be restricted to the Indian culture.

Here’s a list of words. Check them out to see if some sound familiar:
Um, ah, I mean, you know, like, basically, literally, anyway, or whatever, you see…

There are many more that you can add to the list.

Many of us, at some point, might have used these words and may still be in the habit of indiscriminately using them.

Though you may not realize, it sometimes becomes difficult for the listener to concentrate and interpret the real content after filtering out those unwanted filler words.

If the person happens to be one with whom you interact on a daily basis, you can imagine the extent of irritation she would experience the moment you speak.

However, a lot of us resort to these words to bridge the gap between our pauses. If you were having a casual chat with your best friend who accepts you the way you are, these aspects may not matter much. But using such words becomes a habit, so it’s best if you can totally avoid them.

In a professional environment, where there’s cut-throat competition, the constant use of such fillers would have an adverse impact on your image.

How irritants weaken your business communication skills

Irritants make the person you’re talking to wonder why you need to cling to that filler word for help every now and then.

It reinforces the perception that you lack clarity about the topic or your thought process is not structured. if you need time to think as you speak, talking steadily with a constant flow of words, maybe at a slower pace, would be preferable instead.

Let’s try to evaluate a few of these filler words and reason out why people are inclined to fit them in.

Example 1

  • I’m, like, really glad to be part of your team.
  • Then I was, like, so scared.

The word ‘like’ is an unnecessary addition probably used for emphasizing a point.

Example 2

  • I, actually, need to go shopping today.
  • I, literally, got the work done.

It becomes difficult to guess why ‘actually’, ‘literally’ have been used.

Example 3

  • Let me check, umm, today I’m free in the evening.

The word ‘umm’ has been used to buy time as the person is not sure about the day’s schedule.

  • Uhh…yes, we’ll complete two chapters this week.

By using the word ‘uhh’ the speaker is in the process of formulating what needs to follow.

The justification for using these filler words may vary; fact remains that the onlooker perceives you as unprofessional, unprepared and lacking confidence.

These points matter a lot when it comes to giving presentations or contributing opinions in the board-room where you’ll be interacting with the top bosses of your company. No one would appreciate if they had to wait endlessly, with your ‘umms’ and ‘uhhs’, till you complete your sentence.

Whatever you speak has to be succinct and well-thought of. You may need to do your homework the previous day so that you have the concepts clear in your mind and you’re able to speak without hesitation.

Impressions do matter and can make a difference to your career-graph. Many a time just working behind the scenes is not enough, you need to speak out and let your bosses or the top authority know how well you’ve been managing the show.

During your interaction, you need to project yourself as a confident person deserving that upcoming promotion; it’s up to you to make the best use of any golden opportunity that comes your way. So would you allow your bosses to be distracted by your ‘umm’, ‘like’ or would you have them focusing on the real content?

How to improve your verbal communication skills

A lot of us may be so used to these words that we may not even be aware of how often we use them. A good idea would be to mentally make a note each time you use any of these words and try to reduce their usage.

With conscious effort, within a few days, you would be in a position to eliminate it from your vocabulary completely or at least bring it to a level that becomes less distracting.

You could start off at home trying to talk on a topic for five minutes at a stretch and making a note every time you attempt to use a filler. Better still, record yourself while talking.

Surely and steadily with practice, the number of times you err will go down and hopefully you would have another tick mark on your self-improvement list.

Over to you. Which irritants do you use the most?

It’ll be, like, literally mind blowing ya know, if you could share your, umm, feelings or whatever in the comments below.


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Swati //
Swati
After working for over a decade in technical and managerial roles in the corporate world, Swati now works as a freelancer and writes on a variety of topics including education, career guidance and self-improvement.

2 Comments

  1. Anujan says:

    Can’t agree more with the irritants. An apt example is also the point of the Indian cricketers when giving interviews. A lot of pause fillers are used and it sounds really funny to the listener. Most people inadvertently use the Hindi word “ki” in the communication and fail to realize it. :)

    • Sameer Kamat says:

      @Anujan: Though not really irritants, two other filler words in Hindi that routinely find their way into English discussions – ‘matlab’, ‘yaar.

      No yaar, I’m not going to the party. Matlab, I want to, but I can’t.

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