Two powerful words to use with any request

-A A +A

By Linda Arnold

Live Life Fully

The first 30 seconds. That’s when initial impressions are formed.

We’ve all been there. You have an important request, and you’re wondering what to do. How will you come across?

You may think you’re being direct, although others could interpret it as blunt. Or you think you need to provide more background, and your request can come across as wishy-washy.

This is where you need to size up your audience — even if it’s only an audience of one.

With today’s short attention spans, you need to “grab” the listener quickly. I learned recently that the first 11 seconds are critical, and you certainly don’t want the listener to tune you out.

Two powerful words

As simple as it sounds, “I need” is a powerful way to launch into any request.

That’s because the listener is put on notice at the outset that this is something important. It’s much more powerful than “I would like” or “I want to run something by you.”

Can you see the difference? The last two phrases are much less compelling — and they give the listener options. “I need” has more urgency and immediately elevates the request.

Don’t water down your message

We often dilute powerful messages with meaningless filters like the following:

  • kind of
  • sort of
  • try to
  • should be
  • like, really
  • you know

Think about it. When you hear these words, do you find yourself secretly wishing the speaker would get to the point? And then you may turn around and find yourself doing the exact same thing out of habit!

You could even become distracted by counting the number of times someone uses a particular word or phrase. My favorite current example is “literally.” One of my colleagues literally uses this word in every other sentence!

Years ago my sister brought to my attention that I was using the “filler words” too much. As a prior offender, my senses have become heightened, and I now cringe when I hear “kind of” or “sort of” overused. Consider this scenario, posed by the Presentation Coaching Institute.

This is your captain speaking

“Ladies and gentlemen, we should have, you know, really begun our final descent to, ummmmm, our destination today. I’ll sort of really try to land the aircraft safely.”

Doesn’t instill a lot of confidence in the pilot, does it?

There are two types of words and phrases to avoid, according to the company, Second Derivative:

1. Spurious Spacers (um, like, you know …)

2. Wimpy Words (kind of, sort of, maybe)

Wimpy words and spurious spacers

When you’re in a conversation with someone who repeatedly uses these types of words or phrases, do you find yourself being distracted? Don’t be surprised if you find the number of uses of the Spurious Spacer is nearly double the number of sentences delivered. Know what I mean? (Another offensive phrase).

Wimpy words are the worst. They interfere with clarity. In the business world, companies want to work with partners and vendors who can get the job done, not those who can “kind of” deliver.

Convincing cases

What you say, how you say it and how others hear it can make or break your message.

Why do you think prosecutors and defense attorneys work so hard on their opening and closing statements?

Can you imagine the actors in “Law and Order” addressing a jury like this:

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I sort of, you know, want to take this opportunity to, ummmmm, point out some things that I believe maybe should really make a difference in your thinking. I’ll try to, like, kind of show you so you probably could decide. Know what I mean?”

While you may not have to prove your point beyond the shadow of a doubt, you’d better believe your listeners are picking up your cues just like the jurors in this example!

Getting your point across

Power comes from clear communication that inspires and motivates others. The art of communication involves not only the words you say. It involves the sound of your voice, your body language and eye contact.

Communicating is a skill like any other. It can be learned, enhanced and tweaked. Take a look at the following checklist.

Tips for successful communication

1. Focus on what your listeners need to hear.

There’s an important, yet subtle difference between “here’s my agenda” and “this is all about you.”

2. Get the stress out of your voice.

Powerful communicators present ideas in a concise manner. Watch out for these red flags:

• talking too fast

• speaking in monotone

• sporadic eye contact

One painful habit is the tendency to turn statements into questions by ending sentences with a rising inflection? This can be very confusing — and annoying!

3. Be direct, sincere and honest.

People will respect you and develop confidence in you.

Those first seconds

Getting back to those first 11 seconds, feel free to try out the “I need” phrase and see how it works for you.

You could use it as a preface to show some urgency: “I need to go over something with you.” Or you could get right to the point by stating what you need. Either way, the phrase is a “grabber.”

It’s on a “need-to-know” basis. So, now you know!

2018 Linda Arnold Life 101®, all rights reserved

Linda Arnold, M.A., M.B.A., is a syndicated columnist, author and speaker with a home in Ocean Isle Beach. For more information on her books from the Live Life Fully collection, go to lindaarnold.org or amazon.com. Reader comments are welcome at linda@lindaarnold.org.