Friday, Feb 21, 2020
HomeTalking Tips Can your proper speech be hurting you?

Can your proper speech be hurting you?

As a communication coach and trainer, one of the things I emphasize is proper grammar and clear enunciation. This is an aspect of speech that is more important than one may think. People are subconsciously placing you in a box based on the way you sound. Poor speech can be perceived as a lack of education or intelligence, which may put your professional credibility at risk.

When working with groups like customer service and sales professionals, someone will typically ask, “If I speak properly to someone who doesn’t, won’t that make them feel like I’m putting them down?”

My response to this is: when you are the professional, you should be professional. When people are spending their money and you are representing an organization or yourself, giving your best is always appropriate.

You would never wear your bathing suit to work no matter how hot it is, unless you are a lifeguard, because it is important to project a professional image, right? Your professional persona not only incorporates your clothing, but your attitude and the way you speak.

The question posed in the title of this article is, “Can proper speech be hurting you?” The short answer is yes, but not for the reason you may think.

One of my clients told me about a co-worker who is so particular and proper when she speaks in a meeting or gives a presentation, she is difficult to listen to. This is what I refer to as being persnickety. The dictionary definition of persnickety is “placing too much emphasis on trivial or minor details”.

In this instance, proper grammar and enunciation is not the problem. Her inability to connect with her audience is the obstacle, because she is so focused on getting her words out right; she alienates. When you are in the boardroom or interacting with a client, this is not the time to focus on putting the endings on your words. I think you can understand the impediment, if a customer service person is more focused on “sounding professional” than assisting the customer.

Proper speech is not an obstruction, it is the inability to be yourself, give focus to your listener and connect that is the issue. I encourage my clients to practice excellent grammar and diction daily so that it becomes second nature.

The struggle is when you are “consciously incompetent”. This is when you are aware your speech is unpolished, so when the situation holds weight, you are forced to think about things like basic grammar instead of the message you are trying to deliver.

Subject verb agreement, proper pronunciation and using professional words instead of colloquial language is what you want to practice until you become “unconsciously competent”. Unconscious competence is when you do it right without thinking about it.

When the situation is important, you want to focus on connecting with your audience and the message you desire to deliver. Unconscious competence gives you the freedom to do just that. Because when everything is taken into consideration, communication is really all about the way you make others feel.

If you are interested in one-on-one coaching or joining a small group of other professionals with similar personal development goals, send me an email for information.

• Kim Welcome is the CEO and founder of Influential Voice. She assists businesses and professionals to develop deliberate, skillful, polished communication skills to increase their impact and influence. Her clients range from the country’s largest and most prestigious employers to public figures and individual professionals. Feel free to make contact at

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