Archive for the 'Vocal Image' Category

Jun 05 2017

How to, like, stop using “like” kind of all the time

Published by under Presence,Vocal Image

People use speech patterns of popular culture because they are, like, popular.  Part of the fun of life is to copy what we hear said in films and TV because it is a way to share common experience. Common experience is a great way to engage others. However, as my mom used to say, “Everything in moderation.” Today’s speech has become cluttered with “like,” “kind of,” and “sort of,” just as our highways have become cluttered with trash.  Although many argue that these are just words and that they are a normal part of speaking, I argue that too much of this diminishes a person’s impact.

We all know that “kind of” doesn’t mean “absolutely.” Does it matter? To find the answer, ask yourself, “How much influence do I want?”  On the blog post  that addresses the use of “like,” Jim commented that “There probably would not be a marble statue of him if Abraham Lincoln had said: Like four score and seven like years ago our fathers like brought forth on like this continent a new like nation, conceived in like liberty, and like dedicated to the like proposition that all men are created like equal.”

I agree, though he would have been a trendsetter! Instead, the first recorded use of “like” as a filler word appeared 20 years later, in Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novel Kidnapped: “’What’s like wrong with him?’ said she at last.” And thus began our increasing reluctance to take a stand.

Again, the real challenge with “like” is not that it is used, but how it is used. Its overuse seems to apologize for any conviction or strong opinions we have. In the example of Lincoln’s speech, Jim is really saying that when speakers want to inspire change but pepper their speech with words that are not strong, especially when they use a rising terminal (up-speak,) they are less likely to be taken seriously.  Your impact as a speaker depends on the alignment of the purpose/intention of your speech, the words you use and your delivery.  As slam poet Taylor Mali suggests in his wonderful poem “Totally, like whatever, you know,” when you overuse words such as “like,”

(It’s) As if I’m saying,
don’t think I’m a nerd just because I’ve, like, noticed this; ok
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions,
I’m just, like, inviting you to join me on the band wagon of my own uncertainty

If you notice words such as “like,” “sort of,” and “kind of”, like, creeping into your speech, or that of your children, here are some ideas for sort of kicking the habit (see what I mean? Will this help you kick the habit or not?):

1.     Pick a time for this exercise, and find a partner. Choose who will start talking and an easy topic, such as what you had for lunch or what you plan to do over the weekend.  Set the timer for 1 minute. Take turns making a sound like a buzzer every time you hear the other person say “like,” “kind of” or “sort of.” This will help you become aware of how much you use such words. You may also notice how quickly you make different choices when you are caught in the act.

2.     When you hear yourself use such a word or phrase, stop and correct yourself. Here’s an example: “Wait, I’m not “kind of happy,” I AM happy.” Self-awareness moves you closer to breaking the habit; changing the delivery to one of strength will remind you of how to align your content and delivery with your intention to express a clear thought.

3.     There’s an app for this.  The overuse of most of my favorite junk words can be minimized by purchasing the app, LikeSo, and, like, using it.

It takes anywhere from three weeks to 8 months to break a habit, depending on the complexity of it.  Make a commitment to change the way you speak and keep after it by exercising the new skill for at least a month.  It will kind of make a difference in how others, like, perceive of you, which, in turn, will increase the impact of your communication.

For more on this, please see my post, This is why your communication doesn’t have impact

Or this article on Success Magazine site 


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Oct 19 2016

Your voice on conference calls: How to show up when no one can see you

Published by under Presence,Vocal Image

dreamstime_s_18638726Recently, I facilitated a workshop for a group of people who work in their pajamas.   One of them told me that she will do her hair and makeup for the rare call when her customer turns on her video camera, but normally she doesn’t have to worry about being seen. What she has to worry about is being heard, and being heard well enough to make an impact.  Sound familiar? According to Globalworkplaceanalytics,  currently, 50% of the US workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework and approximately 20-25% of the workforce teleworks at some frequency.

Although convenient, teleworking presents big challenges for vocal impact. Some of these are gauging the interest and response of others on a call when you can’t see them, getting a chance to voice your opinion when others are louder or more aggressive on the call, and making sure that you are more important than email.  The sound of your voice has risen to an importance rarely realized before. If you need help making your voice heard, here are three areas to explore:

  1.  Get to know your voice.  What do you know about how others hear you? In the work that I do, I find that most people have very little concept of how the sound of their voice is perceived by others, and yet it does create a perception. Think about someone you know well. What can you say about their voice? Is it high or low, rich or thin, strong or weak? Record your own and listen for the same things. Then pay attention to how people respond to you. Where are you effective and where are you not? You can use exercises on this blog to create the voice you want, but you have to know what you are working with first.
  2. Be expressive. Research has shown that people are not engaged  because the emotional elements and stimuli are removed from most conference calls. When people are on mute, their immediate response to humor is gone. When people are not on the screen, you can’t see their facial expressions. And when you only see slides, you don’t get the same sense of connection with other humans. Therefore, if you want people to listen, try taking some steps to enhance the human side of meetings, add what’s missing to your voice, and encourage others to do the same.
  3. Prepare to participate. Always go into a meeting with the intention to participate and pipe up at least every 10-15 minutes. If you own the meeting, make sure you have prepared a real opening and close to the meeting and that you have an intention for the meeting that you can use to keep people on track and involved. Invite participation and interaction by asking others to prepare to present as well.  If you don’t own the meeting, always be prepared with relevant questions or comments that you have thought through in advance.

Of course, many people you speak with have bad habits around being on conference calls. You probably can’t change those, but if you create a more interesting voice and align it with a clear intention, and always prepare to participate, you have a much greater chance of catching the ear of the listener on the other side.

Vocal Impact Tip: How to make them choose you over email


How to be more expressive


Your (Executive) Presence is Required

Photo © Diego.cervo | – Frustrated Colleagues Playing At Conference Call

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