Today’s challenge was to write about: a word or phrase that you use constantly. The only one that I can think of, which is ‘cool’, and that seems completely superfluous to write about even in this challenge, so I’m going for a word I don’t like and a phrase I do.
Starting sentences with ‘Look’
Don’t do this unless you want your audience to start immediately on the back foot. I came across this vocal tic working for politicians and spokespeople, all of whom I’ve attempted to talk out of using it (with varying degrees of success).
The issue arises typically in interview situations, when the pollie or spokesperson has been asked a question and they are about to launch into an answer. It’s particularly true when the journalist has asked a question where they posit something mildly contrary to what they know the pollie thinks.
They might then begin what they’re saying with something like:
- ‘Look, what we’re talking about here is…
- ‘Look, the real issue is…
- ‘Look, what I’m saying is…
My issue is that starting the sentence with this particular word naturally comes with a particularly dismissive tone, as though what the person has asked is a bit stupid or not worthy of consideration. It comes across as judgemental.
And when a politician or spokesperson is trying to connect with people and convince them of their point of view, that’s not always the best opening position.
Look, I recognise you’ve just said some words, but they’re pretty stupid words, so let’s just listen to what I have to say, mmkay?
Starting sentences with ‘I think’
Conversely, I love when people do this, especially men and political types. Many men have a tendency to either over-explain things (mansplaining) or to speak in absolutes.
Some people state things as though they are absolute fact. This type of assertion often leaves not a lot of room for someone who is less confident to challenge or disagree with that statement.
Because quite frankly a lot of assertions that are made as though they are absolutes are nothing of the sort, they are simply thoughts put forward aggressively in a manner attempting to dominate the listeners.
When you’re doing this from a position of power, whether through some hierarchy or perceived knowledge, to me this is dreadfully unfair and tantamount to linguistic bullying.
Much better then to show respect for your listeners, and offer them the space to express a different opinion to yours by starting sentences that voice opinions with ‘I think’.