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Conversational Insecurity

Recently I sat across from an HR professional for a mid-sized organization.  We were meeting in his office.  This HR pro was very insecure and nervous.  You know how I knew?  He told me.  Well, he didn’t exactly tell me in so many words, like, “You know, I’m very insecure and nervous.”  But what he did do was emit four or five loud belly laughs after every sentence.

Sometimes the response to my questions was shorter than the guffaws I had to endure.  I quickly began to feel compassion for those whose offices surrounded his.  Imagine having to listen to that all day.  It’s just plain annoying.

You’ve all known people who have an uncomfortable little giggle after each sentence but this was huge.  It got to the point that after I’d ask a question, I’d wince a little in anticipation of the loud onslaught that I knew was coming.  He spoke in a normal tone, but he belted out those laughs with full volume.  This was a very nice man and based on my limited assessment, very intelligent.   I can’t begin to know why he has adopted this affectation, but it started me thinking about the messages we all send with our body language and our inadvertent giggles (or cackles).

Some folks have a comfort phrase like, “you know what I mean” that they use to take the edge off any harshness of the communication.  This is also used to gain agreement with the previous statement.  I personally use, “I’m just saying” after I have expressed a particularly poignant opinion.  I want the listener to know that this is my opinion and one they may not share.  But, is that really why?  The truth is, I’m probably discouraging debate.  I don’t like conflict, so if I end a point with, “I’m just saying” perhaps no one will feel the need to express a different point of view.

After my experience this week, I’ve examined my conversational tics.  I encourage you to do the same.  Are we sending a message that differs from our position or point?

Besides, “I’m nervous and insecure,” the gentlemen I met with this week was also saying, “It doesn’t matter how smart I am, I’m annoying and you shouldn’t hire me because I’ll make the rest of the team miserable.”

I’m just saying….

Image by Raymond Brown


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