Lately when I’m in executive coaching sessions, I’ve been noticing a few common mistakes that many executives make. Sometimes it’s a bad habit.  Sometimes it’s just not knowing better. It almost always negatively impacts their credibility.

Fortunately, there are QUICK FIXES that can significantly improve their communication effectiveness, and ultimately boost their credibility. And yours too!

Talk About Talk - Andrea Wojnicki - Episode 154 - Quick Fixes - Title Card - Five Quick Fixes to Boost your Communication Effectiveness

In this week’s Talk About Talk podcast episode, I share “5 QUICK FIXES to Boost your Communication Effectiveness.” Let’s run through three of them right now!

3 Things to Talk About this week: 

  1. An uptick in upspeak
  2. “We see each other, eye-to-eye”
  3. We are all self-absorbed.

1️⃣ An Uptick in Upspeak

Upspeak is the habit of ending sentences with a rising intonation? As if you’re posing a question? Even if you aren’t?

(You read that with a question inflection, didn’t you?  Yes, that’s upspeak.)  

Upspeak is a common trait among many speakers, often women and younger individuals, but it’s not exclusive to them and I’ve noticed it a lot lately.

Talk-About-Talk-Andrea-Wojnicki-Episode-154-Quick-Fixes-Quote-Plaque-Recently I've noticed an uptick in UPSPEAK. This is not a trend you want to join. Upspeak means you sound as if you’re asking a question, even when you’re not. Upspeak makes you sound unsure of yourself, like you’re seeking validation. Credible leaders do not use upspeak.

Upspeak affects your credibility – when you sound as if you’re constantly asking questions, you sound unsure of yourself, like you’re seeking validation.  

If you’re not sure whether you use upspeak, I have three suggestions for how to diagnose yourself:

  1. Ask a trusted friend or even your boss.  You could say “I just learned about upspeak.  Do you know what it is?” Then, “Do you ever hear me using upspeak?”

  2. Record yourself in a meeting, and then listen specifically to your intonation. 

  3. Create a transcript of a meeting when you talk a lot and then search the transcript for question marks. If AI thinks you’re asking a question even when you’re not, then, chances are you’re using up speak.

2️⃣ “Eye-to-eye”

Talk-About-Talk-Andrea-Wojnicki-Episode-154-Quick-Fixes-One-eye-looking-at-camera, image from Canva

You know that saying, “We see each other, eye-to-eye”?

We trust people who make eye contact with us. When we like people more, we’re more likely to make eye contact with them for longer. So think about the negative signal you send when you avoid eye contact.

Not establishing eye contact is, in my experience, even more common than upspeak.

I’m not talking about staring into someone’s eyes for an uncomfortable length of time. That’s just creepy. I am talking about looking at the person instead of looking around the room.

When you’re in person, especially when you’re seated around a meeting table or a boardroom table, try to make sure your chairs are all at the same level. You don’t want to be seated at a pedestal above everybody else, and you certainly don’t want to sit lower than everyone else. You want to see people eye-to-eye.

But what about online meetings? Is it important to stare directly at the camera?

I get this question a lot.

Here’s my take: It’s OK, and in fact it’s a good thing to look around the screen so you can see the expressions and the body language of the other people. By now, we’ve been doing this for long enough that we know what you’re doing when your eyes aren’t looking directly at the camera.

However, when you make your most important points, when you’re making a final recommendation, when someone asks you what you think, that’s when you should consciously look directly into the camera. People will unconsciously perceive that you’re looking them in the eye and that you can be trusted.

Trust me.

3️⃣ We’re all self-absorbed.

 Talk-About-Talk-Andrea-Wojnicki-Episode-154-Quick-Fixes-Quote-Plaque- As human beings, we’re self-absorbed. Part of this is self-awareness, and part of this is survival. Focusing on others can elevate our communication effectiveness. Listen to the words, tone, and body language of others. Stop thinking about yourself for a moment. This is about being genuinely curious about others, being empathetic, believing that others add value. This is effective communication.

As human beings, you could say that we’re all self absorbed. We’re focused on ourselves most of the time, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Part of this is self-awareness. If we weren’t thinking about ourselves, we might not survive. However, focusing on others can elevate our communication and our general effectiveness.

This is about being empathetic. This is about listening to the words, but also the subtext, the tone, and the body language of others. Stop thinking about yourself for a moment. This is also about being genuinely curious about what others think, and believing that they add value.

I have three suggestions to do this: 

  1. Be conscious of pronouns – not necessarily gender pronouns, but whether your pronouns are focused on you or on the other people. Ask yourself: How often do you say “I”? How often do you say “we”? How often do you say “you”? Another place to check your pronouns: your emails. Look at the first word of every paragraph to make sure you’re not focused on “I,” “I,” “I,”!
  2. Ask questions. Ask lots and lots of questions. If you’re asking questions, by definition you’re not focusing on yourself. You are focusing on what other people think and say. 
  3. Track the ratio. Track the ratio of you speaking versus other people speaking in the room. Make sure that you are speaking at or below your fair share. If there’s only one other person you are speaking with, make sure you are speaking less than 50% of the time. If there are five people in the room, make sure you’re speaking less than 20% of the time. You get the idea.
Be other focused.

There you go – 3 things to Talk About this week:

1️⃣An uptick in upspeak
2️⃣”We see each other, eye-to-eye”
3️⃣We are all self-absorbed

To learn more about these plus the other QUICK FIXES to boost your communication effectiveness, listen to this week’s Talk About Talk podcast ep.154 on Apple, SpotifyYouTube or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Do you have other communication mistakes to add to my list? Please email me or message me on LinkedIn.  I’d love to know what you think.

Have a great week.