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How to sound more professional when you speak

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Ever heard a media interview for a news item and felt the person sounded unprofessional?  Conversely, have you heard others speak and thought how eloquent and proficient they came over?   A main factor in the difference between these is our use of judgement language.

We all make judgements – it’s a natural human trait.  And in fact judgements are essential for us to get through our daily lives:

  • Is this project more important than that piece of work today?
  • Is this is the right person to recruit?
  • Have I enough time to do one more email before going to my next meeting?

But although judgement is a vital part of everyday living, we need to take care with it, particularly in relationships, in public and media, and especially at times when there may be challenges or potential conflict.

Consider these everyday examples of things we might hear ourselves saying to ourselves or others:

  1. Jane is lazy and incompetent
  2. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about with this project
  3. You’re not listening to me
  4. She always has to do things her own way when it comes to setting up meetings
  5. Frank complains all the time

This type of vocabulary can be seen as criticism, interpretation, assumption, labels – and when used publicly or in conversation with others can give the impression of being unprofessional, as well as risking a less than effective outcome, e.g.:

  • People may take it as fact and carry that belief about a person even without knowing them
  • Gossip can start from this basis
  • It can come over as non-professional
  • Someone hearing criticism about themselves may instantly put up defensiveness or resistance – making the ensuing conversation difficult (something to consider when giving feedback)

Examples of Judgement Language


“By having a believed judgement about oneself or others, the mind will unconsciously sort information available to it in such a way as to support the believed judgement.  In this way the belief filters our perception and becomes a self-reinforcing mechanism – we get what we believe.”  
‘Words that work in business’ Ike Lasater

Why do we do it?
It’s basic human nature, often built deep-down out of fear or insecurity, and carried out in an aim to make our point heard in a definitive and effective way. Yet it can, and often does, have the opposite effect.

But it’s not that we should try to do away with our judgements – they are essential in showing us what is happening in our minds, and understanding what is causing us to react. And the best way to deal with them is to transform them into observations.

How to transform our judgements
By changing our judgements into what we have observed or heard, we take away the defensive and limited thinking and we open up lines and possibilities for communication.

  • So, when you hear yourself judging, evaluating, analysing or labelling yourself or others, take stock, and try to make a pure observation of what you actually see or hear, so as to get a better perspective on the situation.

Here’s an example of how the same five situations may be alternatively viewed:

  1. Jane is lazy and incompetent
    Jane’s work is incomplete and the deadline has now passed
  2. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about with this project
    I have a different opinion and experience than him with this project
  3. You’re not listening to me
    I see you reading an email whilst I am talking to you
  4. She always has to do things her own way when it comes to setting up meetings
    I notice that you set up meetings in a different way to how I’ve asked you to
  5. Frank complains all the time
    Frank has told me about the same problem five different times

Equally, if called upon to comment publicly about a situation or people, make sure to screen your thoughts for judgements and choose to report them as observations and facts instead of opinions.  And if you do need to put forward your own opinion, make clear to state that it’s your opinion.





2017-Gold-badge-Janey-LovesPenelope Newton-Hurley is a Communication Troubleshooter,Consultant, Trainer and Mediator
The Communication Troubleshooter helps drive engagement and performance through Emotional Intelligence and CommPassion© Communication techniques.

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