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Monday, 22 April 2019

Using Too Many Wasted Words? Think Basic English!

Most of the brilliant speakers we are privileged to hear at the meetings of my Vistage CEO peer group leave behind take-away insights and processes that continue to resonate.

One of these was mentioned by one of our top speakers, Marcus Child who had been to a training session with his son at his football club. The point he made was that while the coach offered a lot of cogent and apparently positive advice, he tended to emphasise what the team needed to stop doing and indeed to stop their  opponents from doing.

All very valuable advice but almost exclusively negative. It may not seem so at first sight but it is so.

If the words we articulate are manifestations of our thoughts (which they are) then we are, in this instance, training ourselves to stop doing something and eventually this will become automatic.

Marcus also made the point that little throw-away remarks used at every touch and turn  also have this hidden negativity. Consider how we respond when someone says “thank you” to us. “No problem” we say brightly or, worse, we indulge in that antipodean “no worries” whatever that may mean.

The fact is that both of these  responses, among others, use two negative words and they are are by no means exceptional.  

Listen to yourself occasionally and see if you can use a cheerfully positive response, such as, “happy to help”, “you’re welcome” or “it’s a pleasure”.

Some years ago I was in a New York supermarket and the checkout woman went through the full gamut of the training programme, (program?) ending with the inevitable “have a nice day”.

Being a nicely brought up Englishman I said “Thank you”. She looked at me for the first time and then said, as they can only say in NYC, “Thank you for what?”  Presumably politeness wasn’t much in evidence in the training course.

Making changes in habitual nodes of speech takes a lot of care, attention and effort. How about starting by eliminating one or more of the following:

Y’know what I mean?
As they say
Sort of
At the end of the day
for starters. I am working on two of them right now.

All of them are quite redundant and just get in the way of what we are intending to say.

We all fall into the trap from time to time and it just needs a modicum of thought before we speak; to adjust what we were going to say and replace it with an inherently  positive response.

Remember that making that change over 30 days is likely to make it into a habit and that can only be a good thing.

Many of the brilliant speakers we have at the meetings of our Vistage CEO peer groups emphasise the need to use positive indicators and responses in our normal conversation.

John Cremer, as an example, demonstrates how this works by designing two forms of a role play conversation, one using the conjunction “and” then replacing it with “but”.

The results were astonishing.
The “and” pair exhibited energy, interest and collaborative insights whereas the “buts” were lethargic, disinterested and lacking energy. Their shoulders actually dropped and please remember this was role play!

But” can be a wholly destructive word in any conversation.  It has been said that when we use BUT we destroy everything that has been said before it.

During the last war and to improve communications the Government instituted a programme of Basic English using no more than 800 words.   This was considered sufficient,in terms of the number of words and using the basic rules of grammar, to become relatively proficient in English as a second language.

Would that it were more evident today in these times of super-communication.

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Email: ivan.goldberg@vistage.co.uk