Communicating Verbally

I love to read and I love words! Reading relaxes me and helps me forget for a while the pressures of the day. It’s what satisfies my desire to learn as much as I can. It’s what helps me share the experiences of others as they live their lives. Words take me along the John Galt Line at100 miles per hour, they help me understand complex metaphysical ideas and they let me begin to understand what it was like for Eleanor Roosevelt to be a First Lady.

Those words, whether written or spoken, are our verbal communication. We communicate by our word choice, our grammatical skills and the statements we make. However, it’s important to remember is that the meaning isn’t in the words themselves, but in our perception of the word’s meaning.


Try this short exercise

Write the following words on a piece of paper –

“a few,” “many,” “none,” “some,” “frequently,” “often,” “several,” “lots,” “a bunch,” “not many”

Now, write down how many each of those words represents.

For example, does “a few” mean 5?

Go ahead and try it before you read further.


How Was It?

That was probably more difficult than it seemed, wasn’t it? In addition, if you compare your answers with others, you’ll find very little agreement as to the definitions. You might think that “a few” is 5, but I might think that it’s only 3. The reason we have such difficulty agreeing is that words have no absolute meaning in themselves.Their meaning is determined by the communicators.


More Than One Meaning

Remember when you were in elementary school and wanted to know the meaning of a word? The teacher told you to look it up. However, what you quickly discovered was that while you were looking for one meaning, you got several. There was/is no absolute meaning. A “rose” can be a flower, something that resembles a rose such as the rosette on a shoe, a form in which diamonds are cut, or a color, among other definitions. However, the confusion doesn’t stop there. There are also the connotative or emotional meanings of words that have to be taken into consideration. For a person who has allergies, “rose” may mean suffering. If your favorite aunt’s name is Rose, then it will mean something else to you as you remember her kindnesses. So, it isn’t the word that contains meaning, but your reaction, response and experience that does.



Words can also reflect attitudes. Think for a moment. Do you generally use powerful or weak language? Most of us use a mixture of the 2 and that’s good. We adjust our words and language to the situation. However too many of us, especially women, use an over-abundance of powerless language.

For example, have you ever said, “I guess I thought that …” or “I think that maybe we could …”? If so, you’ve used a hedge that weakens what follows it.

Disclaimers can do the same thing. When you say, “I’m not sure I should bring it up, but …” or “You can reject this if you want to, but …” you are effectively negating what follows.

Exercise: How could you turn those phrases into stronger statements? Take a moment and write down your answers.


How Was It?

What did you do with the hedges? One way to sound more confident and authoritative is to replace the “I guess I thought that’s …” with a simple “I think that …” and the “I think that maybe we coulds …” with “We should …” As far as the disclaimers are concerned, you can eliminate them completely and simply make your point.


Get Rid of the Fillers

The fillers that sometimes clutter up our language, also make our verbal communication much less powerful that it could or should be. Do you have a lot of “uhs,” “you knows,” and “ands” in your speech? If so, it is interfering with your communication.

Here are a couple of ways to solve the problem.

One: To eliminate a bad habit, you first have to become aware that you’re doing it. If you can, have someone listen to you and signal each time you say “uh” or whatever your problem word or phrase is. (Mine used to be “okay.”) It will drive you crazy at first, but you’ll eventually become aware that you’re saying it. Only then can you eliminate it by changing your habit.

Two: Another technique is to try speaking for just 15 seconds without the filler word or phrase. Time yourself and see if you can do it. It’s harder than it seems. Once you’ve mastered 15 seconds, extend the time to 30 second then a minute and so on. Be warned, this can also be very frustrating, but eventually, you will have either greatly reduced the number of fillers you use or eliminated them completely.


Always Remember!

The words you choose to use say a lot about you and how you feel about the world. Choose them with care.


©2017, Say It Well! Permission is given to reprint this article if the following is included: Reprinted by permission of Dr. Candice M. Coleman. She can be reached at 636-724-3761.