In today’s constantly connected environment, why is it that (it seems to me, anyway) communication skills are worse than ever?
Perhaps the texting, tweeting, Facebooking, Instagramming, emailing, and whatever else people are hooked on is causing their actual speaking skills to erode. Or perhaps they were not refined to begin with.
I’ve noticed several poor speaking habits of late. Let’s look at a few.
1) “May I ask … ?”
Here’s a common one. Reps often preface questions with “May I ask … ” as in, “May I ask how many locations you have?”
When you analyze it, this is a waste of words and also implies the inquirer is tentative and not confident in asking for the information. Those who are guilty of using this phrase might argue that they don’t want to appear pushy with their questions.
As long as you’ve shown the prospect what you can do for them, you’ve earned the right to ask for information. Plus, you can make your questions sound non-threatening with your tone of voice. In a sincere tone, simply say, “How many locations do you have?”
2) “Can I ask you a question?”
Here’s another slightly different, but related offense: “Can I ask you a question?”
If you say this, you just did ask a question! (Plus, the first word should be “may.” If you are able to speak, you “can” ask a question.)
The problem with this question is that it redirects a prospect’s attention to focus on whether or not they want to answer any questions.
However, contrast that with: “Tell me about how your organization is structured by region.”
Now the buyer isn’t debating as to whether or not they want to answer your questions — they’re thinking about the answer to your request.
That’s why questions are so powerful. They prompt the person to think about precisely what you ask them.
3) “Do you do this, or … ?”
Another habit annoying to some is asking a question, and then ending with the “hanging or.” This gives the impression that the speaker has more to say, when in fact, they’ve stopped.
- “Would you say your department will meet your objective for this fiscal year, or … ?”
- “Is that something you’d like to take a look at, or … ?”
This can confuse the listener, and as with any poor conversational habit, it can be irritating if it’s persistent.
What should you say instead? Ask the question, and then shut up.
These three phrases add nothing to a conversation. They only serve to confuse and waste time.
Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Smart Calling Online and is republished here with permission.