10 speaking habits that will undermine you

Bad speaking habitsI never cease to be amazed by the things people do while they are communicating. I have seen just about everything:

  • The CEO who grasped the side seams of his pants and slowly pulled up his pants legs.
  • The senior executive who continuously twirled her scarf.
  • The engineer who, thinking he was keeping his listeners engaged, walked from one side of the room to the other, stopping each time in the middle to move 360 degrees, a circle, before continuing.
  • The vice president who waved his pen between his fingers so vigorously it flew out of his hand and hit another executive in the forehead.

Distracting communication habits sabotage our message and minimize our influence. Most of us have at least one communication habit that is distracting to our listeners.

Do you ever put your hands in your pockets during stand-up conversations? If so and you have anything in your pockets like keys or coins, I would be willing to bet that you begin to play with them. You likely aren’t aware you’re doing it; but to those around you, it looks quite interesting to say the least.

Here are the top 10 distracting speaking behaviors and what those quirks are communicating to your listeners:

1. Looking away from listeners while talking. Untrustworthy

2. Fidgeting with fingers, pen, clothes, slide clicker, etc. Nervous, uncomfortable, uncertain, lack of confidence

3. Shifting your body side to side or forward and back. Uncomfortable, lack of confidence

4. Pacing back and forth. Nervous, searching for content

5. Placing your hands on your hips. Aggressiveness

6. Using filler words (uh, um, so, but, you know, OK, well, right). Nervous, uncomfortable, lack of knowledge

7. Voice trailing off at the end of a sentence. Unsure, uncomfortable, insecure

8. Speaking too softly. Uncomfortable, lack of confidence, lack of knowledge

9. Speaking too loudly. Brashness, egotistical, offensive

10. Overgesturing. Overly anxious

Stacey Hanke is author of the new book Influence Redefined: Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be, Monday to Monday. Visit www.staceyhankeinc.com.