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Get Your Ideas Heard – and Appreciated

How you say it can be just as important as what you say...

Have you lost the ability to keep people’s attention?  Are you noticing that no one is paying much attention to what you have to say anymore?  Because of the barrage of media messages we’re subjected to each day, the pacing of normal conversations has increased.

Check it out – most of the people you speak to on a daily basis talk much faster than they did a few years ago, and it seems like the younger generation is talking faster than ever.  But along with that, comes the flood of “you know,” “like,” “and so,” plus other phrases that are used over an over – sometimes in every single sentence.  The problem is – if you’re one of those people, you need to understand that after the seventh “you know,” your listener starts tuning you out.  The repetition drives people crazy.  So how do you fix it?  How to you stop the racing conversation, and the repeated phrases, and become more articulate once again?

Here’s a few suggestions:

1)    Force yourself to speak more slowly. In your haste to get your ideas across, your mouth is moving faster than your brain.  You feel like you need to be saying something, so you toss in meaningless phrases such as “you know” or “like” just to keep talking.  Slow it down.  Practice speaking more slowly so you have time to actually think about what you’re saying.

2)    When you finish the thought, stop talking. I have a friend who just can’t seem to end a thought, so he inserts phrases like “…and so…” – letting the conversation drift off, rather than end.  When the thought is over, STOP.  Don’t keep engaging your mouth.  If there’s nothing left to say, then leave it.

3)    Learn to listen. This is becoming a forgotten art.  Most people don’t actually listen, they’re just thinking of the next thing they want to say.  But if you force yourself to really listen, you’ll find yourself thinking of far better things to say, plus, it will give you time to organize that next thought.  You want to be more fascinating to people?  Then shut up and listen. Trust me – for most people, letting them talk will make them think you’re the most interesting person in the world.

4)    Before you speak again, think about what you’re going to say.
This will also help you slow down the conversation.  Actually consider the thought before you open your mouth.  Think it through before you engage your voice, and it will make a huge difference in how well you articulate the response.

5)    Stop interrupting. Sure you have a great thought.  Sure you’re excited to share it.  But it’s the height of rudeness to interrupt someone.  Wait until they’ve finished before you jump in.  For serial interrupters, this will be tough – so be prepared to fight the impulse.

6)    Make notes.
This will seem awkward unless you’re in a meeting with multiple people, but I use it even when talking to a single person.  When a thought comes to you, just jot down a word or two.  This will help keep you from interrupting, but keep you from forgetting the thought.  It will also force you to consider it, and help you articulate it better.

While some of these suggestions may sound trivial, but they really will help you stop these annoying habits, and get back on the road to articulating your thoughts – and once again, commanding people’s attention.

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  1. Excellent and sound counsel, as James succinctly said “Let every man be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry.”

  2. You have addressed one of my pet peeves by extension–the utter lack of disciplined thinking. I have friends who pass on unbelievable information they have never bothered to check out. I have grown weary of asking, "Where did you hear that?" and receiving a defensive response, as though they should not be responsible for passing on ridiculous untruths. They will say silly, inane things just to fill a quiet space. One friend repeats over and over in sermons, "and suddenly . . . " when there is no segue from or to something happening suddenly. Not to mention the inattention to even pronouncing a word properly, or a person's name, even after being gently corrected more than once. And how irritating is the the current overuse of "sort of" by intelligent authors and speakers I hear interviewed on television or radio! "It was a way of sort of sending a message . . . " Wait–was it a way of sending a message or not? People will not slow down to listen to themselves and hear anything coming out of their mouths. IT IS WEARYING.

  3. I am TERRIBLE at interrupting!  Very very bad at it.  Growing up, that's how you showed that you were paying attention and that your mind was engaged in what the person was saying.  If someone was quiet while you were talking, that meant they were thinking about something else!  It's been very hard to keep that under control, but my hubby helps.  Often, I'll be talking to him about something and turn to see him looking at me.  I'll say 'Why are you looking at me like that?!' and he says 'I'm listening to you!' 

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