How you sound makes a difference

The scene

A client called and to announce he had a new team member who was dynamic and switched on.  She had career aspirations to be the best in her field of work and to make a mark in her industry. He was confident she could do it.

The one thing her boss was concerned about what how the new team member sounded when talking with her colleagues, with her clients and when out networking with industry professionals.  The way she talked didn’t seem to match her professional skill base or performance.

Everything we say—and how we say it—has a massive impact on every aspect of our professional careers, and, for that matter, our personal lives.  Whether you’re self-employed or working for someone, how you sound when talking with others is likely having a profound effect on what you’re trying to achieve. It certainly has a direct impact on your success.

A word, a gesture or comment spoken can make or break how an outcome pans out, whether for or against you.

The solution

Here are some questions to ponder.

  • Do you ask a question rather than make a statement when you know what you want to do?Asking a question can make you sound inadequate, that you don’t know what’s going on, that you have no confidence in what you’re saying or what you want to do. Making a statement and indicating you’ll follow up with action makes you sound stronger.
  • Do you fluff around with words? Time is precious in work environments and executives and colleagues don’t have time to ‘fluff’ around. Get to the point quickly so everyone can get on with it.
  • Do you explain all the time? Just as fluffing around with words is annoying so is explaining what, when and why you’re saying something (when it’s not necessary that is). It’s a lethal combination when you fluff and explain at the same time.
  • Do you ask permission? Children ask for permission. Your boss wants you to take control and run with things. When you ask for permission to do something you have the authority to do, it you once again look incompetent. If you’re going down a path that your boss doesn’t want you to, they’ll tell you.
  • Do you apologise? It’s interesting that this happens in large executive meetings as well as around the office. First ask, why are you apologising?  Second, don’t apologise for having an opinion. If you know you’re an ‘apologiser’, count the number of times you do it in a day.  You might be very surprised.
  • Do you talk too fast? Talking too fast is irritating to everyone. People end up not listening because they can’t understand what you’re saying. They get frustrated because they know they’re missing something. Often others think you’re talking before you’ve even thought about what you’re meaning to say, which is plain unprofessional.  S L O W down!
  • Do you know the language of your business? Acronyms, specialised terminology and industry speak is important when dealing with others in your business world. Do you know what terms means what in your industry? Get to know your industry lingo and use it when appropriate. It makes you sound confident that you know what you’re talking about.
  • Do you use bureaucratic language and jargon when it’s not appropriate?  It’s super important to know your industry terminology but don’t use it—or acronyms or shortened forms—with those outside your industry who might not have the same level of knowledge as you do. It’s annoying to them and can even make you sound pompous.


With some coaching, my client’s new team members slowly but surely began to improve her communications skills. It made all the difference.


  1. If you’re not sure how you sound ask a trusted colleague, your manager or a coach. Be brave enough to ask them to be specific with what you can improve.
  2. Make a list of the ‘slack’ words you use and concentrate on eliminating them from your language.
  3. Remember that successful people know how to communicate to great effect. They’ve taken time to master how they sound. They think about what is appropriate and not appropriate when communicating. They respect those they’re talking too.

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