The 7 Deadly Sins of Speaking

Do you sometimes find people don’t listen when you’re speaking?

If we want to speak in a genuinely engaging way, we need to avoid certain speaking behaviours.

Sound expert, Julian Treasure, highlights these in this interesting TED talk, so watch it when you have a few minutes. Not surprisingly, he’s easy to listen to!

Here are the 7 deadly sins of speaking:

1. Gossip. A bit like a massive feed of junk food, it might feel good at the time, but more often than not, afterwards you regret it. For some, it can be easy to fall into the trap of gossiping, particularly when someone else initiates it. When this happens, do your best to divert the subject.

2. Judging. This Native American proverb sums it up.

Grant That I May Not Criticize My Neighbour
Until I Have Walked A Mile In His Moccasin

As a leader always seek first to understand. For more on the topic see here.

3. Negativity. If you find your default position when faced with challenges and setbacks is to blame others and criticise, you may be suffering from the toxic cycle of negativity.  If you get known for this, people are likely to switch off to you and your messages. Don’t be that guy.

4. Complaining. I love Julian’s humour in describing complaining as the “national sport of the UK”. But in all seriousness, when you find yourself starting to move into complaining mode, ask yourself, “in this situation, what’s within my control?” – and focus on that.

5. Excuses. Passing the buck is the antithesis to accountability and responsibility. Can you imagine being engaged by a speaker who uses, as Julian so aptly describes, “blame throwing”?

6. Lying. If you’re prone to exaggeration, this can sometimes extend the truth to the point where it becomes a lie. This is the easiest way to lose the trust of an audience.

7. Dogmatism. The confusion of fact with opinion. Being bombarded with other people’s principles without any consideration of your own is a sure fire turn off.

By contrast, there are 4 cornerstones of powerful speech which form the acronym, HAIL.

Honesty – be true, straight and clear.
Authenticity – just be yourself.
Integrity – do what you say in order to build trust.
Love – not romantic love, just wishing people well.

Public speaking is never a breeze, but it’s an essential skill for leaders to master. Remembering Julian’s tips can help to provide a sound foundation when preparing for your next speaking engagement.

Do you have any points to add to the list above? If so, I’d love to hear from you – please leave your comments below.

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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