How to use clear English as your ‘stressometer’

Your worst nightmare has become flesh.

You’re in the meeting that your colleague was supposed to have got the presentation ready for. But they’re conveniently sick. Instead, it’s you flustering your way through a mass of charts, graphs and figures that resemble nothing less than a Jackson Pollock.

As you speak, you find you’re floating above yourself. Your normal, direct way of talking has been replaced by a language invented by a management consultant in a Magimix.

What’s happened?

Physiologically we all recognise the signs: increased heart rate, dry mouth, difficulty breathing.

But what’s happening psychologically?

It seems that when we’re under pressure, we resort to ‘models of expertise’: the academic, the cultural critic, the surgeon. They use complicated, technical language, your brain says, so if I want to appear knowledgeable and in control I should mimic them.

Of course, you give exactly the opposite impression: as your confidence evaporates, you know just how a beached whale must feel as the tide slips further and further away.

So, how do you keep calm and keep your audience with you?

You can use various stress management techniques. But you can also use a quick and easy technique using clear English.

Focus on the words you’re saying. If they’re technical, jargon, many-syllabled, stop talking, pause for breath and concentrate on using simpler words.

The effort involved helps to calm you, but also to make clearer what you’re saying, both in terms of the content and the structure of your argument.

Your stress levels will go down.

The power of clarity

You may even be able to find the words to forgive your colleague for landing you in it.

But even if you can’t, at least you’ll be able to express clearly and calmly exactly what you think of them.

About the author of this article

This article was written by Simon, one of Skillstudio’s consultant trainers. 

Simon is based in London and has designed and runs our in-company Persuasive Writing and Powerful Storytelling workshops. 

As well as being an experienced trainer and role-player Simon is an accomplished actor, writer and theatre director. He has worked as a writer, designer and film director for a range of large companies and organizations.

Simon has a MA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford University. He has a wide range of writing experience, in both the commercial sector, as well as for television, film and radio.

You can read more about Simon here.

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in-house workshops then give us a call on +44 (0) 8456 444 150 and we’ll get Simon to touch base with you to discuss things further.

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