If you are anything like me I’m sure somewhere on ted talks you’ve watched the presentation on bad speaking habits. Julian Treasure is one of my favorite speakers! You can check him out here.
So I’ll follow Julian’s lead and share my own 7 favorite bad speaking habits!
I want you to think about a conversation you’ve had with someone, think of a negative conversation. What jumped out at you? Were they speaking really fast and interrupting you or even not allowing you to get a word in? Did they speak about taboo topics?
For me personally, there is nothing as bad as someone who raises one or all of the 3 taboo topics during a polite and friendly conversation: 1. Religion 2.Politics 3.Money.
Those 3 are absolutely off limits. If you want to make enemies, that’s one way to do so.
Let’s get to my list, shall we?
Keep in mind my list has very much to do with public speaking and delivering presentations but these rules can absolutely be applied to one on one conversations or general conversations.
Did you know that complaining is actually a habit? If you are a chronic complainer like I sometimes am, you won’t even notice that you complain in almost every conversation. Why? Because it’s so easy for humanity to find things wrong in situations. “Oh look, Kristina, that tree needs to be trimmed, it’s destroying the view of the park, these park officials are sure lazy!.” Are you still going to want to listen to the speaker or would you have lost interest? You probably will leave thinking he or she is a negative nancy. Nobody likes a complainer, we all have our own problems and most probably could use some positive interaction. Keep that in mind!
I’ll admit, this is a really bad habit that I had to break and it ain’t easy. Did you know that adding some flair however dramatic is in fact lying? Yes, when you exaggerate you are actually lying. Not only is it annoying but what about your credibility. People are less likely to take you seriously if you are someone who exaggerates your stories or experiences. It really does demean the language.
This is one of my personal favorites. I’m someone who is very particular about fact and opinion and please do not get those two confused. What exactly is dogmatism? Dogmatism is the confusion of facts with opinions. This connects closely with gossip. If you can’t back up your opinion with facts your credibility will suffer and no one has time for dogmatism these days.
So during conversations or public speaking, it’s extremely important that your opinion is factually correct. In fact, it’s better to state facts instead!
You’re probably wondering what does this have to do with speaking? Well, everything! I once had a friend who was a nervous speaker and he could not have a conversation or deliver a presentation without clicking his pen or cracking his fingers. Let that sink it. Are you agitated just thinking about that? I’m breaking out into a sweat just writing about it. Yes, I get it. You are nervous but please find a way to deal with it. Don’t subject others to the sound a constant clicking pen or the bones in your fingers. It’s extremely distracting and eventually, personally, I will stop listening and rather start counting how many times you clicked your pen essentially this just leads to you wasting your breath and everyone else’s time. It’s a bitter pill to swallow but I can promise you there is no dogmatism here!
- Not Being Yourself
This takes me back to my high school days were so many kids were trying to fit in.
Remember those kids who tried too hard? Yeah, they never knew people saw right through the act and some even try this act during their adulthood. From my experience, there is nothing more awkward than that. Think of someone who isn’t funny at all, trying to be funny in front of a group of people they barely know just so that they can feel accepted or included in the group? People see through these acts and in most cases, it will be awkward. Just be you! The right people will be drawn to you, and that’s all that matters! Use words that are familiar to you, there is no need for big fancy or technical terms you know nothing about. Stick to what you know or you might find yourself in a sticky situation!
- Reading Your Powerpoint Presentation / Slides
This one relates more to public speaking or presentations. Please, be prepared. Practice at home. People can tell if you haven’t put in the time for an important presentation. But how? Well, you’ll be reading your slides to your audience. Why is that bad? Again, your credibility. How will the listeners know this is your work? They didn’t attend the presentation only to watch and listen to someone read slides when they could have done this action themselves. Use the slides for additional information and rather interact and speak to the listeners. It will be far more interesting and you’ll probably feel a lot less nervous.
- Your Register
Have you ever listened to someone talk with a ridiculous register? What is a vocal register? “A vocal register is a range of tones in the human voice produced by a particular vibratory pattern of the vocal folds. These registers include modal voice, vocal fry, falsetto, and the whistle register.” (Wikipedia)
Imagine sitting in on a meeting and this handsome man starts speaking with an extremely high pitch/register or with a squeaky voice. Yes, this actually happens when some people get nervous. If your voice register changes when speaking to other people I would definitely advise you to seek a vocal coach to assist you. Did you know that it is extremely difficult to listen to speakers with a high pitch and that a lower register/pitch is the ears’ preference? Did you know that we associate depth with power and with authority? Take a moment and think about it. The register of a person plays a huge role in how we perceive them and seeking help from a professional to help you with your register is absolutely fine and fabulous! More power to you if you do!
How does this relate to teaching and students?
Our students come to lessons not only to learn English but to learn from us. At the time of the lesson, you are a role model. If you are a speaker your student might parrot everything he or she learns and see’s from you. Students are more impressionable than we realize. If you might have a bad habit you could possibly transfer this habit to your unsuspecting student as they might assume this is the norm for English speakers.
It’s important to be relaxed at the time of teaching and ensure that you control some of your bad speaking habits. Are you a pen clicker? Make sure your pens are all stores away from reach. Personally, I’ve caught myself reading the Vimbox slides a few times and I feel horribly guilty when I make this error. Why? Well, it’s very obvious to the student and also very clear to him or her that why should they pay for English lessons when they can read the slides themselves? Where is the value? We have to ensure that we give value to our students and this means omitting our bad speaking habits to ensure our students have the best and most authentic language experience that they can’t experience using a language app.
Want a quick reference guide? You can check out this cool infographic here.
It’s really important to care how you speak, you want people to hear you and listen to you after all. Otherwise, you become invisible and I can imagine that to be lonely.
There is no shame in having bad speaking habits, we all have a few but there are always ways to improve them or break the bad habits.
You can record yourself while practicing and you’ll be able to hear if you click your pen, take long pauses, ramble or have a special register.
That’s it from me! Good luck and happy teaching!