What Did You Just Say?!

March 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Candid Communication, Mini-Lessons

We are ALL guilty of using some of these.  Below are tips for polishing our presentation skills in both everyday conversation and more formal presentations.

My speech students are presenting a speech on Friday that many fail but walk away with essential lessons learned.  In past years, in fact, students have continually expressed that, despite the low scores, this assignment is their favorite because they walk away much more cognizant of speech blunders.  I’m speaking of The Ummm Speech in which points are deducted each time students blunder their conversation with unnecessary fillers and upspeak.  Students are invited to talk about their own personal topics; however, anxiety still abounds as students fear their habits may be hard to kick.  To preface these presentations, we discussed these verbal tics today.  How many are you guilty of utilizing?!

Speech Spillage

1.  Frivolous Fillers = mealymouthed language littered with “um,”  “you know,”  “ah,”  “like,”  “and so,” etc.  Frivolous fillers are a turn-off in the business, entertainment, political, and professional world.  Presentation is half the battle.  People seem to understand very well these days that networking is important; yet, too many folks lack the presentation skills to network as successfully as possible.

What can you do?  Practice in a no-stakes environment.  For instance, at your local coffee shop, instead of saying,”I’ll have, umm, the, I don’t know, I think the French Vanilla Skinny Latte” . . . . say “A Tall French Vanilla Skinny Latte, please.”  Who’s going to get the better service?

2.  Unnecessary Upspeak = the habit of speaking so that your pitch rises at the end of a sentence?  And everything sounds like a question?  It’s an easy habit to adopt?  Especially if your friends do it too?  This is usually a habit that teenagers adopt.  I hear this too frequently during high school speeches.  The problem is it invites the listener to question the speaker.  If you sound like you’re not sure you believe what you’re saying, why should anyone else?

What can you do?  Record yourself in a brief conversation or while rehearsing a speech.  Hearing yourself?  Talking like this?  Can do wonders to kick-off the process of quitting.  Period.

3.  Creaky Communication – Here’s a site that illustrates the creaky voice loudly and clearly: http://squibbage.blogspot.com/2009/07/creaky-voice-craze.html

Creaky voice is making your voice sound tired or strained.  (Lindsey Lohan, Mary-Kate Olsen . . . you get the idea)  This may be sexy in the right situation however people interpret these sautéed syllables as uncertainty or even smugness.

What can you do?  Relax your vocal cords so your voice sounds creaky, then murmer: “I am the perfect candidate for this position.”  Now say the same words in a forthright, clear, assertive tone.  Who’s getting the job?!

4.  Careless Cussing = While my high school students are careful not to do this, many adults get in the habit of rolling these dirty little words into their everyday conversation.  Not good – not only do curse words sound plain old ugly, they make you sound negative.  Profanity is lazy language . . . people tend to use it when frustrated, angry or impatient.

What can you do?  Challenge yourself to think of different, clever synonyms for four-letter words.  You just might break the ice and get a laugh out of it too.  How about borrowing Shakespeare’s exclamation, “Zounds” or “balderdash” or “bunk?”  See the reaction this instills.

5.  Silly Slang = offensive, very uncool, and often politically incorrect words.  No one seems to remember anything about Jennifer Anniston’s interview with Regis Philbin other than her joking about being a “retard.”  Why?  Slang can easily be offensive.  There’s a reason public figures keep having to apologize for using words such as this.

What can you do?  When in doubt, leave it out.

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How Well Do You Self-Monitor?

I give the following survey to my speech students at the beginning of the semester, prefacing our initial discussion of the communication process.  Try this for yourself and then, perhaps, give this to your students.  You can tally your results below!


Whether in front or behind the camera, monitoring yourself is necessary for communication. This is my daughter & I in front of the camera for a taping of Idol Tonight!!


How Well Do You Self-Monitor?


True or False

1.      _______            I find it hard to imitate the behavior of other people.
2.      _______            I guess I do put on a show to impress or entertain people.
3.      _______            I would probably make a good actor or actress.
4.      _______            I sometimes appear to be experiencing deeper emotions than I truly am.
5.      _______            In a group of people, I rarely am the center of attention.
6.      _______            In different situations and with different people, I often act very differently.
7.      _______            I can argue only for ideas I already believe in.
8.      _______            To be liked, I tend to be what people expect of me rather than who I am.
9.      _______            I may deceive people by being friendly when I really dislike them.
10.    ______               I am always the person I appear to be.

Scoring: For questions 1, 5, and 7 give yourself 1 point if you answered False.  For the rest of the questions, give yourself 1 point if you answered true.

Add up your points: 7 and above = high self-monitoring;      3 or below = low self-monitoring

Self-monitoring is observing and regulating one’s own behavior.

Some people – like models, politicians, actors – are very aware of the effects of their appearance and behavior.  They regulate themselves to an extreme degree, and are considered high monitors.  Other people seem to have no sense at all of how they appear to other people or what effects their behavior has.  They are considered low monitors.

Most people are somewhere in the middle.  Some self-monitoring ability is definitely preferable to none.  It is healthy and shows that you recognize the importance of other people.

You’re Wearing My Color

January 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Candid Communication, Mini-Lessons

It’s winter and we could all use a little more color to brighten our day . . . yes, even my West Coast friends!  Just as the sun affects our moods, gazing at, wearing or surrounding ourselves with certain colors evokes different feelings.  Check out my post on Colorstrology for details on the intriguing belief that we are connected to certain colors based on our birthdays.

We use color to distinguish between teams (Go Blue and Silver!), to hide pounds, to accentuate curves, to decorate rooms, to mark occasions.  Just as I can’t imagine a world without music, a world without color would be a world with less smiles.

Advertisers, marketers, actors and musicians strategically use color to evoke a response from their audiences.  As a semester opener for my communication classes, I ask my students to answer the following questions about colors.  There are no right or wrong answers but these spawn thought and discussion as to how we can subtly use color to evoke desired responses when conveying messages.  I give students slips of paper with a different color labeled on each.  They answer the questions below according to their given color.

It’s your turn.  Pick a color, any color, and replace the X with that color.  Complete the rest of the sentence with that color in mind.

Color Questionnaire

  1. The personality of a person whose favorite color is X may best be described as ____________________, ____________________ and ____________________.
  2. The personality of a person who has an extreme dislike for X may best be described as ____________________, _________________, and _______________________.
  3. When I visualize X, my thoughts and feelings can best be described as:  ___________________________, ______________________, and __________________________________.
  4. My first impression of a book whose cover is X is that the book is _________________________________.
  5. My first impression of a woman who wears X a great deal is that the woman is ________________________.
  6. My first impression of a man who wears X a great deal is that the man is ___________________________.

Color for thought:
~Do certain colors appear masculine (or communicate masculinity in some way) and certain colors appear feminine (or communicate femininity in some way)?

~Which colors would you categorize as masculine?  Why?

~Which colors would you categorize as feminine?  Why?

What colors would you use to communicate the following feelings and characteristics?  Why?

a.  Friendliness

b. Hostility

c. Warmth

d. Sex appeal

e. Love

f. Satisfaction

g. Anger

h. Strength

i. Weakness

j. Happiness

What colors would you use to package the following products?  Why?

a.  a new and powerful detergent

b. an expensive line of chocolate chip cookies

c. an extremely powerful personal computer

d. a mild liquid laxative

e. an expensive gold watch

GG’s reflection questions:

How universal do you think the impressions that people get from various colors are?  For example, do men and women get the same impressions on the basis of color?  Would young and old derive the same impressions?  Would members of different cultures?

Comment your responses.  This is fun!

How Well Do Your Friends Really Know You?

January 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Candid Communication, Mini-Lessons

Self-Disclosure – A Reality Check!!!

How much of your personal hopes, desires, feelings, and fears do you share with your friends?  Are you comfortable to be your true self with your friends? What do you hold inside?  What do you let anyone and everyone know? We may be surprised and touched by how much our friends really have us pegged for who we really are, cognizant of our intimate wishes and desires. On the other side of the coin, we may be shocked at how little we truly reveal, only assuming they know what our true feelings are when, in actuality,  we put up a facade.

I am ecstatic I’ll be teaching three speech communication classes this semester!  It’s my dream schedule!!!  As part of the interpersonal unit for these classes, I ask my students to give the following set of questions to a friend.  The answers they come back with are always eye-opening as to how well we communicate interpersonally.

Truth time.  Give these questions to a friend and have him/her respond as he/she feels you would answer the questions.  In other words, he should pretend to be you when he answers these.    Once you have your friend’s responses, ponder over the reflections listed below.  How much do you disclose?  Moreover, how accurately do you disclose?


  1. How do I feel when I am in a new group of strangers?
  2. What does it take courage for me to do?
  3. When someone ignores me, how do I feel?
  4. What is one thing that I really like about myself?
  5. How satisfied am I with my role in school?  With my role at home?  With my role in our friendship?
  6. How do I see the future of our friendship?
  7. What do I spend a lot of time thinking about?
  8. Of what am I most afraid?
  9. What about you irritates me?  (remember, here your friend is trying to guess what irritates you about him)
  10. What do I appreciate about you?


  1. Based on how your friend responded to these questions, what aspects of yourself do you tend to disclose most fully?
  2. What kind of information are you unlikely to disclose?
  3. Did any of your friend’s responses surprise you?
  4. Were there any situations in which your friend knew less about you than you expected?
  5. Were there any situations in which your friend knew more about you than you expected?

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