Ray is the Senior Communications Specialist at Grassroots Public Affairs and is based in Montreal. Ray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those seriously committed to being seen, being perceived, as a powerful and positive leader, a “leadership” communicator, must gain awareness of small yet significant communication blunders made far too often by far too many people.
To paraphrase the notable voice actor Stephen Morgan Zirnkilton, best known for his “Law and Order” series introductions:
“In the criminal communication system, miscommunication gaffes by those in prominent leadership positions are considered most heinous; these are their stories.”
Well … I think they are … 😊.
Throughout this COVID pandemic, you may have noticed one of the most egregious communication mistakes in newscasts and major media, without fully realizing that you have indeed noticed it.
According to various scientific experts on communication and mindset, judgements you make of others will most frequently be made in your sub-conscious mind. People make sub-conscious decisions on other people and their habits, or perhaps more accurately expressed as because of their habits, without much conscious awareness that those sub-conscious judgements are happening.
And it is my assessment that the more prevalent the habit is displayed, broadcasted, and disseminated, especially by those in prominent positions, the more you hear it repeated, the less noticeable it becomes and the more it will be accepted, imitated, and integrated into general communication culture.
One such habit is saying “I think.”
Consider the following statement from recent events:
“I think the execution of search warrants is an extraordinary action for prosecutors to take against a lawyer, let alone a lawyer of a former president.”
“The execution of search warrants is an extraordinary action for prosecutors to take against a lawyer, let alone a lawyer of a former president.”
In the latter, the small removal of “I think” results in a sizeable increase in assertiveness, strength of message and authority of the messenger.
Another example from a personal life experience:
Some years ago, my wife and I were visiting one of her close friends who asked her: “Are you coming to Jocelyne’s baby shower next weekend?” The response, enthusiastically said, was: “I think so.” A pause. “Well, are you coming … or aren’t you?” “Yes Julie … I think I can make it.” Another pause, which was now causing me, as a coach of communication skills, an advocate for kaizen [continuous Improvement] and concerned husband wanting to avoid any unpleasantry between friends, to advance from mild concern to worry.
The conversation deteriorated as tensions rose. “Why wouldn’t you come? I can’t believe you! She’s like a daughter to you” after which … well … ‘the wheels came off’ comes to mind.
When people are told “I think” what they really hear is “I’m not sure.” Julie was looking for a strong “Yes, of course” not a “maybe.”
Listen for “I think” on the news, in interviews, online, in conversations at home, discussions at work. When you really listen for it you will catch it being said just about everywhere! By politicians, world leaders, sports commentators, podcasters, authority figures on all sorts of diverse topics.
And when you do listen for and hear the many “I thinks” in the public domain, you may also catch times you yourself are saying it and, therefore, be able to adjust. Small change – big difference.
The good news is that you will also notice, and be impressed by, those communicators who never, ever, say it! And that heightened awareness must surely allow you to become one of them.
Be one of those who never utters “I think” and replace it with more positive vocabulary: “I know, I believe, I am sure, I am convinced, I am certain.”
- I think the Toronto Maple Leafs have a good chance of competing for the Stanley Cup this season.
- I believe The Toronto Maple Leafs have a good chance of competing for the Stanley Cup this season.
- I think our company can provide you with exceptional products, the best customer service and strong overall support.
- I am confident our company can provide you with exceptional products, the best customer service and strong overall support.
Or consider just leaving it out:
- I think the report will be on your desk by start of day Friday.
- The report will be on your desk by start of day Friday.
Elevate your communication power, your assertiveness, your professional image as a leader, and your personal reputation at the sub-conscious level of your listeners, by breaking the habit of saying “I think.”
To “think” often – as an action, a habit, a forethought to making strong, strategic choices – is a practice of great leaders and a custom of respected leadership.
To say “I think” is not.
To your success!