Our quest for self improvement is a 365-proposition these days, so the notion that one day on the calendar represents the ideal window of opportunity to up our game is about as antiquated as a flip phone.
But if you are fiercely determined to wipe the slate clean this week, and improving your communication skills is at the top of your list, I have some good places to start.
And the best part is, they're pretty simple fixes.
1) Try getting through a speech or presentation without saying the words "perspective" or "standpoint." This is one of the most mind-numbing verbal habits in corporate America right now. Instead of saying, "so how are we doing against our competitors?" we somehow feel the need to lean on that ubiquitous crutch with, "So if we were to look at this from a competitive landscape perspective..." I'll take the former over the latter any day.
2) Don't begin your sentences with "so." Like most trends, I'm pretty sure this one started in California where people in the technology field would start virtually every thought this way. And when the "so" is drawn out and said longer, followed by a pause, it can make your contribution to the discussion sound ponderous.
3) Don't use stilted, jargony and over-complicated phrasing to try to sound smarter. For instance, why would you ever substitute "we need to make a decision on this soon," with "we're rapidly approaching a choice point on this." Go ahead laugh. I heard that one recently in the boardroom of a Fortune 100 company.
4) Embrace pausing. Most of us are deathly afraid of silence. We kid ourselves that to sound intelligent we must have a steady stream of audio spilling out of our mouths. That is why the natural gap that is supposed to exist between your first sentence and your second sentence is often filled with "uh" or "um." Those dreaded filler words are not period substitutes. Speaking in shorter, choppier sentences will always keep your listener's attention more than one droning, paragraph-long sentence.
5) Jettison "kind of" and "sort of." This one has spread like some kind of verbal rash. It might have initially come into vogue to prevent us from sounding too brash and too opinionated. But there's something terribly wrong when you hear a company's leader talk about a key hire by saying, "she was sort of the best candidate out there." What that CEO should be saying is, "she IS the best person for this position." Nod if you've heard your fair share of presentations that start with, "so, I just thought I would kind of quickly walk you through what's happened since we last met."
The year is young yet. Like any bad habits we're trying to break, we're always bound to have lapses. Awareness is always the first step. Here are five to keep your eyes (and ears) on.