2 Tips to Beat The Overwhelm of English Grammar and Vocabulary Lists from Killing Your Professional Dream.
You and I are so alike.
We have a dream. We think we know how to achieve it.
We are also impatient, so we look for ways to fast track its realisation.
We create a to-do list we believe will help us achieve our dream as quickly as possible. A to-do list that’s filled with words like ’top tips’, ‘how to (fill in the blanks) in 10 days’, ‘ intensive’, ‘immersion’, ‘mistake-free’, ‘fluent’.
But the results don’t materialise in the way and as fast as we want them to. In fact, we appear to be going backwards, not forwards.
To make matters worse, we can’t help comparing ourselves to others on social media, at conferences, during networking events, online summits. What do we see? Someone who’s doing things SO MUCH better, more efficiently, more professionally and more successfully than us.
A sinking feeling of not being good enough begins to seep into our bones and take hold of our self-esteem.
We begin to question ourselves. Am I too old for this? Is it all too late for me? Should I give up now? What’s the point?
But NO. We will NOT be defeated by such negative talk. We dust that layer of self-doubt off our shoulders and take action.
We start feeding our already full to-do list with even more items in the belief that the more we cram our schedules, the closer we’ll get to becoming our dream persona. One more programme, two more books to read, one more app, three new blog posts, another vocabulary list.
One day, we crash. Overwhelm takes hold. We’re exhausted. Our vision is hazy. We no longer know what the next step should be. And even if we did, we no longer have the energy to take that next step.
Our dream has escaped from our grasp. It’s become elusive.
We just want to curl up in a foetal position and let sleep wash away our exhaustion.
There has to be a more compassionate, less overwhelming way of achieving our dream.
In this post, I want to examine what you’re doing now, why you’re doing it, why it’s not working and show you how you can make small, lasting changes that won’t overwhelm you.
Here’s what your dream looks like and how it makes you feel.
If you’re like my clients, this is what your current dream looks like👇🏽.
You want to speak grammar-perfect, sophisticated English in your meetings >> with as few pauses as possible when answering questions in a Q & A session >> seamlessly express yourself using the right (sophisticated) words in that conference call >> tame that accent of yours for your next presentation.
You want all this in the hope of getting a promotion >> of successfully leading your team >> of earning your peers’ respect >> of demonstrating to your superiors you were the right choice.
You want all this because you fear if you don’t speak grammar-perfect, mistake-free and sophisticated English, your expertise and professionalism will remain invisible.
To get there, there’s much to learn (so you think) – vocabulary for meetings, negotiations, all those English tenses, mastering those prepositions, memorising phrasal verbs. The list is endless.
ALL of it has to be achieved in the shortest time possible (time is money) – in a 2-week full immersion course, a 10-day online programme, a weekend retreat, a 10-lesson Skype package.
As one client said, “it’s a neverending story”.
Trouble is, no matter how much you do, nothing seems to work. >> You still struggle to remember the right words at the right time. >> You still confuse the present perfect with the past simple tense. >> You still pause for too long when answering questions or sharing your opinion.
That sinking feeling of not being good enough or of being too old to learn or remember begins to seep into your soul.
It gnaws at you and you begin to lose faith and hope.
Tip #1: Ditch the dream. It’s not working.
The reason your dream is not working is because:
#1: It’s the WRONG dream.
#2: Your strategy is ineffective.
#1: The Wrong Dream
You don’t NEED to speak more grammar-perfect, sophisticated, mistake-free English to thrive in your career.
You need to learn how to communicate in English.
Communication is the key to business success. Not speaking more.
You know you’re communicating when you’re:
➤ listening more and that means asking more questions
➤ listening to understand which requires you to stay silent
➤ adapting your language to your audience (who are probably all international speakers of English with varying levels of English)
➤ focusing on being clear which means using plain English, not buzzwords, jargon, fancy words.
➤ having a clear structure to your thoughts which requires planning
➤ pausing before answering a question which shows respect and consideration.
And guess what?
You can achieve all this with the language you already have. Trust me. You have all the language you need to nail that meeting.
You don’t need more phrasal verbs. You don’t need to learn the vocabulary of meetings, negotiations ( …fill in the blanks). You don’t need to master all the conditional tenses.
What you DO need is to be strategically focused. Here’s what I mean.
#2: Your Strategy Is Ineffective.
Your current strategy of attending an intensive 5-week course, subscribing to a 2-week grammar online course, paying for a 3-week full immersion course is futile if the sole purpose you’re doing it is to cram your notebooks and brain with more vocabulary, more grammar, more phrasal verbs.
That’s a waste of your money, time and energy.
No matter how many courses you take and for how long, you’ll NEVER learn ALL those phrasal verbs. You’ll NEVER master how to use prepositions in the right way. You’ll NEVER remember all those new sophisticated words.
All you’ll be doing is feeding that beast called OVERWHELM.
And ask yourself this.
How does knowing 100 phrasal verbs help me in my lunch meeting with the new CEO of my key customer?
How will knowing the third conditional tense help me negotiate that contract with our biggest supplier?
Exactly. A big fat zero.
Here’s what I want you to do instead.
#Tip 2: Focus on one thing.
Focus on one thing and focus on what you need to do now.
Say you have an upcoming meeting (or a series of meetings) in English next week, in a fortnight, next month. It’s a key meeting and you want to ensure you make a good impression and achieve your goal.
Focus on this meeting and nothing else. Nothing else matters.
Prepare for this meeting by reflecting on it.
In my reflection programme, I give my clients some reflection prompts to guide them. Here are some of them.
➤ What’s the purpose (outcome) of the meeting? What do you want to accomplish at the end? Be specific.
➤ What do you need your audience to do to accomplish your outcome? >>To agree with you? >> To confirm their commitment? >> To adopt a new way of thinking? List everything that’s relevant.
➤ What information does your audience need to fulfil your objective?>> facts and figures?>> a backstory? >> your support? >> Do you have that?
➤ Who’s your audience?>> International speakers? Monolingual English speakers?>> What’s their level of English?
➤ How should the information they need be delivered? >>Does it need clear and plain English? >>Would non-complex sentence structures be appreciated?
➤ What do you need to do to accomplish your desired outcome besides speak? Make a plan and have it with you as a prompt.
If you’re working with a trainer, use these prompts to help you prepare.
Don’t use a business coursebook and work through the language of meetings. You don’t need that because you already have it in you.
What you need is time to reflect on this one meeting (or meetings), prepare for it and discuss it with your trainer.
Once the preparation work is done, you’re ready to deal with whatever may happen during that meeting.
In my programme, I also encourage my clients to observe during and analyse after the meeting. I give them another series of prompts to guide them.
The act of preparing, observing and analysing one thing makes you more aware of how you communicate.
With greater self-awareness comes greater clarity. Clarity of what you need to do to make the small and lasting tweaks to how you communicate.
Focus on learning to be an effective business communicator in English NOT a speaker of English.
Focus on learning to communicate with the language you already have NOT on accumulating more language.
Focus on being a communicator now, not in six months, a year, 2 years.
Focus on taking one small step at a time.
Focus on making small tweaks to that one step.
Focus on celebrating each small step.
By doing this, not only will you make progress, but you’ll also tame the overwhelm.
After years of being overwhelmed by grammar and vocabulary lists, you deserve to finally feel good about yourself.