When searching for clarity in your communication, carefully choosing your words means there is less chance of what you say being misinterpreted.
The problem is the final “t” in can’t
The last “t” in can’t is tough, because if someone doesn’t hear that last sound, they’ll think you said “can.” This can dramatically change the course of a discussion if it’s not clarified during the conversation.
You might have said, “I can’t do it by Friday,” but if the other person didn’t hear the last “t,” they might be sitting there waiting at the end of the week.
It’s more common than you think.
What about other negative contractions?
Other negative contractions don’t present as much of a problem as can’t because they can’t be confused for the positive meaning of the word if the last “t” isn’t there. In most cases an “n” is added to the contraction (from the word not).
Some examples are: aren’t, couldn’t, didn’t, doesn’t, hasn’t, hadn’t, isn’t, shouldn’t, wasn’t, weren’t, won’t.
3 reasons you should clarify your words
The final consonant in many words and contractions can be hard to hear. There are three main reasons why you might need to clarify your words during speech.
1. Pronunciation – It’s partly from how we say the words. Most people don’t articulate the last syllable of words very well. A speech coach I had years ago told me to always punch the last consonant of a word. It sounds funny in your head when you slightly exaggerate the end of a word, but it comes across as completely natural to the other person, and much more clear.
2. Phones have terrible audio quality – A telephone is one of the devices we still use that hasn’t progressed as fast as other technology. The quality is bad enough that you often need to clarify meaning when you’re talking about something technical, or something that’s new to one side. There’s not much you can do about this, besides finding another way to communicate.
3. Loss of hearing – In our society, hearing issues are a growing problem. People of all ages are experiencing hearing loss. This means that they may have a harder time understanding the subtleties of what you’re communicating. It can be frustrating for them and for you.
It’s good to avoid negatives most of the time
If you’re trying to persuade someone, it’s best to reduce the number of negatives you use. The goal in business communication is to communicate how your product or service will fulfil the needs of your client.
Often times when I present a Communicating for Results workshop, there are a few people who tell me that they’ve been taught to eliminate all negative communication from their speech. I agree that many communication coaches believe this is a good idea because they think too many negatives will stop the sales process.
I agree that it’s good to reduce the number of negatives, but when you try to avoid them all all costs, I really believe the clarity of your communication suffers. I find that people come across as pitchy or evasive when they’ve eliminated all of the negatives from their speech and keep rephrasing everything I say in a positive light.
I’m sure you’ll say can’t sometime soon on the phone. If you do, remember to follow it up with a clarifying statement so that whoever you’re talking to, is on the exact same page with you.