Remember these 3 tips before your next meeting in English
#1: Speak to express NOT to impress
#2: Be comfortable being imperfect
#3: Don’t be afraid to show you’re vulnerable
These 3 tips appeared in my LinkedIn newsfeed a while back. They came from a LinkedIn Influencer and were offered to anyone who wants to be a better leader and build greater influence at work.
These tips are not new. I bet you’ve attended plenty of leadership courses where they’ve been discussed. In fact, you’ve probably already applied them in your relationships with your team, peers and clients.
However, when it comes to applying them to how you communicate as an international speaker of English, it’s not so straightforward.
1: The idea of speaking NOT to impress feels wrong.
You want to impress and the way you want to do that is by using sophisticated words, having plenty of different ways of saying “I agree”, using complex sentence structures and speaking without pausing.
On an exploratory call with a former client the other day, she asked me if I could help her speak like her British peers because they seemed so assured and confident. This is a new role for her and she’s keen to impress (naturally). However, what she mistakes for her command of the English language is, in actual fact, experience and command of the subject. She will gain the latter as she settles into the role.
Don’t confuse language with expertise.
2: Being imperfect in English is extremely uncomfortable
You and I know that there’s no such thing as perfection and yet, it’s what you seek in your English. You want to make the fewest grammar and vocabulary mistakes and speak fast and fluidly as you do in your first language.
Newsflash: Don’t think for one moment you’re perfect in your first language, because you’re not!
Your ability to express yourself doesn’t come from how perfectly you use your language but from how well you adapt your language to the other person.
The more words you know don’t equal better clarity. Words are meaningless if the other person doesn’t understand their meaning.
Aim to be an effective and authoritative communicator with your ‘not-so-perfect’ English.
3: Showing you’re vulnerable is unthinkable
Being vulnerable for you means going blank, having to ask the person to repeat, pausing for too long or struggling to understand your British colleague. You feel that it undermines your credibility and authority.
The opposite is true.
Following tip #3 means not being afraid to ask the other person or your audience to help you when you can’t find a word or to ask them what they mean when they’re not clear or to pause before replying.
It means proudly acknowledging that as an international speaker you may make grammar mistakes but that doesn’t reflect your expertise, credibility and authority.
When I find myself having heart palpitations before introducing what I do and whom I help in Italian, I remind myself to congratulate my effort and courage for being willing to step out of my comfort zone.
Above all, I remind myself that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness but a willingness to learn.
I invite you to do the same because your words and grammar mistakes don’t define who you are as a person and a professional.