Great advice from Julian Treasure

To speak with confidence and impact, if you could do with a bit of that, you’re in for a treat.

You are going to learn about three words that you can safely ban from your vocabulary. The results are mind-boggling. You will instantly sound more confident and persuasive. But be warned, we use these words so often that getting rid of them requires some effort and patience.

This little life-hack comes from TED legend and sound consultant Julian Treasure. His recent book, “How to be Heard” is an absolute treasure box of wisdom and practical guidance for anyone wanting to up their listening and speaking game. It’s helping me a lot, and I’ll be sharing more of my learnings and progress soon.

And while the idea for this article comes from the book, I’m also going to put my spin on it – and give you a glimpse of the bigger picture.

Word #1


Let’s start with the first word. As of now, you will stop using the word just. This little bugger presents like an innocent decoration, but make no mistake; it drastically alters the DNA of your sentences.

There is a sense of uncertainty in a just statement. It dilutes the intent of your words or, worse, suggests that you are apologising for saying what you’re saying. If what you say serves little purpose, practice silence more often. Otherwise, go for it!

Consider these basic examples: “I just called to ask whether you’re coming” vs “I called to ask whether you’re coming”; “I’m just typing an email” vs “I’m typing an email.” In each case, the second option sounds a lot more direct and assertive. No meaning is lost, which shows that there was no good reason for the additional baggage.

Doing this at first may seem strangely unfamiliar. You become more vulnerable and unsure of the outcome of your words. You may even worry about sounding demanding and arrogant. That’s completely normal and presents no real risk. One less word does not determine how others see you.

One reason, just keeps creeping into our vocabulary is lack of confidence. We may not be confident enough in what we’re saying or in ourselves concerning others. Confidence ultimately flows from the inside, and that requires a different strategy. But more on that in another article.

Word #2


The second candidate for the chop is the word should. A should sentence is vague, lacks accountability and has an ugly moral-undertone. Look at the following example: “Someone should tell them to clean up the mess.” The underlying problem may be real, but putting it this way doesn’t help.

People pay attention if your language comes from a place of responsibility – to provide leadership or be a part of the solution. Step one in that direction is being transparent and direct in your choice of words while showing respect for the listener.

Julian Treasure explains how hard it is to listen to someone when you feel judged and left wanting for more at the same time. Similarly, who likes to listen to someone that’s permanently negative? The above example is both, negative and judgemental.

An improved statement could look something like this: “I noticed, the room is in quite a state, who can help us sort it out?” In this case, there ’s still no downplaying of the issue at hand. But there’s a greater sense of accountability and leadership by the speaker, even if s/he has no intention of joining the clean-up team.

Word #3


The final culprit comprises four words, but not to worry, their nature and effect are the same. These are: always, never, everyone, no-one. Julian Treasure calls them maximisers, but ‘crude exaggerations’ is an equally apt description.

Maximisers add a dramatic effect to a sentence which DOESN’T translate into impact and credibility! Quite the contrary, one too many of them and we expose ourselves as ignorant. As small fish in a big pond, there’s too much we don’t know to have the right to speak in absolutes.

What’s more, generalisations cause havoc in relationships. When a sentence starts with, “you always”, or “you never”, anything that follows lacks credibility. The person on the receiving end will feel as if their character is on trial, even if the statement pertains to a specific scenario. Once your listener goes into defence mode, they’re unable to hear you out.

I hope you found the article helpful. If you do, please share it with your friends, family and colleagues – they’ll be thankful you did.


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