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Mar 10

Keep Your Speech Top Flight in Business

Posted by: Steve Marr

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Martha, a young account manager for an electronics manufacturer, struggled to make sales until her manager took her aside and explained that her use of "hip" expressions caused her to lose credibility with customers. "We are selling high-tech products that cost $5,000 or more, and customers don't always understand the technology. When you sound like a teenager, it just doesn't work." Martha took the comments to heart, improved her communication skills, and increased her sales production.


Michael was stuck in middle management, unable to win a key promotion, or to be hired by other companies. Frustrated, he met with his company's human resources director, who told him candidly that his conversational grammar was a big problem. In higher level meetings, he sounded second rate. "First rate ideas, communicated in a second class way, will cause you to look weak and ineffective," she said. She also recommended some speech coaching, and within a year, Michael was promoted. 

An old cliché in business is to dress for the job you want, not the job you have. The same holds true in our speech. How we talk goes a long way toward determining how we will be judged. Although it may not seem fair, it is a reality. King Solomon wrote, "He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles" (Proverbs 21:23, nasb). We must guard our speech if we want to advance in business. 

First, stick to the point and don't ramble. We can easily become nervous and want to fill every quiet moment, but over-talking may be perceived as babble by others. King Solomon observed, "The fool multiplies his words" (Ecclesiastes 10:14, nasb). By making every word count and avoiding digression, you will impress your boss and connect more effectively with customers.

Slang expressions are best kept out of meetings where more formal language is appropriate. Many slang expressions have their roots in unsavory connotations, which can easily cause embarrassment for you or others. Curse words should never be acceptable at any time in the workplace. 

Decisiveness is an important part of many jobs. Some occasions require strong, definitive statements. Saying "I think" or "perhaps" or "maybe" will cause you to look weak and uncertain when you should be strong and definite. Brian was an excellent computer programmer who wanted to move into a management position, but he was passed over several times. Finally, his supervisor told him that he often seemed tentative and lacking in confidence. Brian learned to use more certain and positive words when he was confident of a point, and saved the tentative language for when the issues were unclear. He later won his sought-after promotion.

Good grammar is important for everyone. Unfortunately, many schools today do a poor job of basic English education. Still, we all have a responsibility to speak appropriately. If we struggle with proper use of the language, we need to assume responsibility to improve. 

Wise managers will give instruction and feedback to their staff and employees on how to communicate more effectively with customers and coworkers. By sharing constructive comments, manager can strengthen their business teams and advance the careers of others.

Proactively seek feedback from your boss and ask for suggestions on how to improve your speech and communication skills. King Solomon wrote, "It is better to listen to the rebuke of a wise man than for one to listen to the song of fools" (Ecclesiastes 7:5, nasb). Your colleagues may not go out of their way to comment on your speech habits, but by asking for help and feedback you will demonstrate a genuine interest in advancing your career.

Learning to speak effectively will help you climb the ladder of success.

Steve Marr, Your Christian Business Coach


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