How to talk slower and "more senior"?

Anonymous A asked on Apr 16, 2019 - 3 answers

Dear community,

I have received the feedback that my thinking is very sharp and analytical, however my way of speaking comes across too hasty and, unprecise, and quite junior. So I wonder how I can work on improving this? Anything I can do on my own (other than asking the people around me for constant feedback)?

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Anonymous replied on Apr 17, 2019

Hi Anonymous,

Guennael and Sidi both raise great points, but there's an observation to be had in the way that they presented these points.

Both of them segmented their responses into 3-4 key items. Think about doing this in your verbal communications! That means:

  1. Pause before speaking to gather your thoughts - the time may feel like forever for you, but it's not nearly as long as you think. Leverage filler sentences such as "that's and interesting point" to buy some time if needed.
  2. Frame your answer - Generally, MBBers say "There are 3 parts to this". Then, they highlight in 1 sentence each of the 2-4 points
  3. Iterate through each point - After framing how you're going to answer the question, then answer it by diving into each "part" in the order you summarized each.

Hope this helps!

Sidi
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replied on Apr 16, 2019
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Hi Anonymous,

the below hints should help you adressing this issue:

1. Pronounce each word more clearly. Oftentimes people who speak too quickly tend to blur words together in a way that can be difficult to understand. Spend some time practicing how you enunciate words, especially when you string them together in a sentence. Don’t skip over any words, not even the small ones. Enunciate each syllable of every word. This will naturally slow down your pace of speaking.

2. Use your breathing as a natural helping mechanism. This is an exercise used by actors to improve their vocal presence. Before each sentence, take a full bellyful of air and then pour all the air into that one phrase. Relax. Then, take another full breath and speak the next phrase. Practice this technique first by whispering. Then repeat it in a conversational way, but again, pour all the air into each phrase and honor the silence between phrases.

3. Plan pauses into your sentences. Try to consciously pause within sentences, or to be more precise, between distinct messages you convey. This adds a lot of gravitas to your communication. Try and adhere to mental cues, like three beats in between two statements (you can discretely use your toes inside your shoes to keep track).

Hope this is helpful!

Cheers, Sidi

Guennael
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replied on Apr 16, 2019
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This is quite common actually, and the fix won't be quick or easy but definitely worth it. Some thoughts:

1. Check out Victor Cheng's "Gravitas" course; or at least, check out some of his blog posts on the topic

2. Do not end your sentences on a higher pitch. We actually had coaching specifically on that point at BCG. Pitch going up makes you tentative; pitch going down inspires trust and confidence

3. Ditch the filler words, which take away from the message. That will probably take you years to get rid of (I am still working on it myself, nearly 8 years after first becoming aware of the issue). Well worth it though

4. Most importantly - slow down the flow and learn to appreciate pauses & silence. If you speak fast, you will sound passionate but won't generate much respect. Listen to how politicians or presenters speak: They will speak slowly, and make you hang on to their every words. I remember a study in France which showed that Presidents spoke slower than when they were ministers or candidates. When you have power, you speak slower; when you speak slower, people think you have power

This is a fascinating topic, and improving here will serve you well throughout your career (and arguably personal life). Good luck