Are You an Abrasive Communicator?

Has anyone ever told you have an abrasive style of communication? Want to change how you communicate?  Lisa B. Marshall, aka The Public Speaker, answers a reader who asks how to have a friendlier voice, especially when interacting with her children.  

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read
Episode #327

If I had to guess (and of course, I have no idea since I've never heard you speak) here's what I think may be going on. First, I suspect that you either don't readily show expressions on your face or you show negative expressions, such as rolling your eyes or sighing. Secondly, I suspect that you tend to speak rapidly, have quick body movements, and perhaps even talk slightly faster and louder than the rest of your family. Also, there is a good chance you are brief and concise with your words because you value efficiency. You may even have poor listening skills and interrupt because you feel it's faster if you jump in. Again, I've never met you, so I could be totally wrong—however, what I am describing are typical behaviors that lead to negative impressions such as those you described (not a compassionate and friendly voice). 

My advice? First don’t try to fix multiple behaviors at one time. Choose to wok on the one single behavior that you believe is the most problematic for you. I would suggest trying a new behavior as soon as you become aware that you are using the identified primary problematic behavior. Perhaps the issue is that you respond immediately and harshly to your children. At first your only goal is to put space between your conversational sentences. For example, try forcing yourself to breath deeply at the end of each sentence. Another option is to simply stay silent for at least five seconds before responding. If the situation allows, consider taking a short walking break before responding or simply “pass.” Your family would need to agree to the exact meaning of "pass" but perhaps it might mean, "Go talk to your father while I do something relaxing (such as listen to music or read a book). The idea is to try different behaviors from the ones that aren’t working until you find a replacement behavior that works for you. (It may help to get the help of a professional to guide you in identifying the negatively perceived behaviors and the best possible replacement behaviors.  (BTW, I offer one-on-one coaching for issues like this.) 

By listening and approaching the issue with curiosity (or possibly with a little help from a professional), you should be able to identify what is happening with your voice and make small changes for the better. Most importantly, don’t beat yourself up about this—it took you a lifetime to create your current vocal habits. It will take some time to first become self-aware and then more time to change them, but it is entirely possible to make this change—especially since you are are likely very motivated to be the best mother you can be. Let me know how things go!  

This is Lisa B. Marshall helping you to lead and influence.  If you'd like to learn more about compelling communication, I invite you to read my bestselling books, Smart Talk and Ace Your Interview and listen to my other podcast, Smart Talk. As always, your success is my business

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.