Two years ago, I was with a friend (Eric “Hypnotica” Von Sydow) during my last month of living in San Diego. During the few days we hung out, he pointed out to me that I kept using a series of noncommittal words and phrases (e.g. stuff, perhaps, kinda, possible, possibility, sorta, I think, can’t, should, maybe, try, but). At one point, he had asked me a question and stopped me during the middle of my explanation and basically told me to stop it as I was driving him crazy and speaking in circles. I was very confused as I had never been given that type of feedback before. When I inquired about where I lost him, his response was because in my short story to him, I had used the word but over 20 times! Eric had listened to me and each time I used a word that was not commanding, he made a tick mark. I was astonished.
When you think about this, how do you believe the listener feels? When you cannot commit to them and speak in terms of “maybe’s, should’s, etc.” do you really believe that they will respect you? Trust you? Honor you? Would you?
I went home that evening and did a quick search through my emails to see if I wrote the same way, and unfortunately the answer was an astounding yes. I immediately then did some research how to change this habit.
The first tool that I implemented was aText (there are many others available for various platforms). This immediately showed how I was using these words in my writing. Secondly, just that I was now aware of this I begin to improve (four stages of competence); thankfully I had already instilled in myself the believe structure of acceptance, acknowledging and appreciation when it comes to reactions of others or even noticing parts of yourself – only then can you make a true decision; “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?“, thanks The Clash.
Fast forward a year. I was in with some very close friends discussing business ideas, etc. and later in the evening they all confronted me stating that I was the master of my domain yet I spoke sheepishly and didn’t have a commanding presence. They stated since they knew me that it didn’t impact them, however for others that did not know me that this could come off as sleazy, wishy-washy, and of course insecure and lacking in confidence.
Again, what a wakeup call to hear feedback like this. At this time, I started to record (thanks to my handy iPhone) my conversations, teleconferences, etc. and I made sure to record the calls that I knew would be full of confrontation and stress. Immediately after the call, I would listen to the recording with pen and paper in hand. I would listen to my voice and then here the peaks, the times that I came across assured of myself, straight-forward, and in-charge. I would pause the recording, write out what I was thinking, what made me feel that way, etc. Then, the fun part…the valleys, the times that my vocal tonality would shift, get sheepish, shy, etc. Again, I would pause the recording and document the why, what, who, etc. Upon completion I would find that either I was intimidated by a person (I saw the opportunity to build that relationship), I was under prepared for a certain topic, etc. Basically, I started to see what these other characters in my story were looking for and how to hack them. As new characters enter into your story, this is an exercise you need to continually do to stay on top.
It is my belief that every person that implements these two hacks will start to see just how violent, negative, or self-defeating their communication is. Secondly, they will, with the use of these two improvements, begin to see their relationships improve.
While these techniques do not come from any book, there are a few books that discuss aspects of this that I feel are important on any self-development journey.
Metawhore; My Cock Don’t Talk Politics by Eric “Hypnotica” Von Sydow
The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday
The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
Introducing NLP by Joseph O’Connor & John Seymour
How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
The Nonviolent Communication Training Course by Marshall Rosenberg