We live in a more casual society than our parents and grandparents did. However, I think that it still serves one well to be respectful and have a certain polished, professional manner in the business world.
Here are some tips to communicate professionally:
1. Slow down – we are in such a hurry these days that even the pace of our speech has quickened. Take your time when you speak to let each word you say sink in for the listener. This will also show respect to the person you are talking to – that you have time for them and want to communicate to them clearly.
2. Smile – if you smile occasionally when speaking it will add lift to your voice and tone. This is especially important when you are speaking on the phone to show that you are engaged in the conversation. Of course, there are those difficult conversations when smiling would not be appropriate.
3. Avoid filler words – do you say the words, like, so, um, and ah too much? Repeating these words and others like them can convey that you are unsure, nervous or even unintelligent. It might be better to pause than keep repeating these words too often. You might not even realize that you are using these words regularly.
4. Pause – don’t be afraid to pause instead of inserting repetitive, awkward words to fill dead space in the conversation. This can show that you are carefully considering the right way to state something.
5. Segue smoothly – there are times when you will want to move on in the conversation. Be sure to use terms like “let’s move on” or “another thing we can explore, look at, consider” etc. as ways to transition instead of words like “so anyways” or other similar casual phrases.
6. Don’t be pretentious – you may have an above average vocabulary and insert an occasional “big” word. However, if you constantly insert “fancy” and uncommonly used words during conversation, this may come across as you showing off your intellect and be taken as arrogance.
7. Know the meaning – be sure you know the meaning of a word or phrase before using. We have all seen the leader or celebrity who is mocked for using a word incorrectly.
8. Be upbeat – avoid droning on and on in a monotone voice. Utilizing a positive, upbeat tone and different inflections will convey action and energy.
9. Listen before speaking – avoid interrupting another speaker. Be sure that they are finished before jumping into the conversation. By being an engaged listener, you that what they are saying is valued by you.
10. Avoid slang terms/sarcasm – if you speak with slang terms or sarcasm, people may judge you as not being serious or too casual. In a professional setting, avoid these pitfalls as they can be taken the wrong way. It is more acceptable to insert slang or sarcastic terms with friends and close family members in a casual environment.
11. Keep it clean – this should go without saying, but it’s becoming more prevalent to hear curse words and inappropriate humor in the business world. It is better to play it safe and steer clear of swearing and this type of humor as it can make the person/people that you are speaking with uncomfortable.