239 - 4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Stress Over Word Choice
When you speak, do you ever find yourself pausing to select the best word possible before moving forward?
That habit of choosing your words carefully may be beneficial for writing, but when it comes to speaking, obsessing over word choice can be detrimental to your impact.
Here are four reasons why you should focus less on the individual words you use when you speak.
1. The simpler, the better
If you have a large vocabulary, you’re more likely to struggle with this problem. After all, you have more words to choose from!
But in speaking, simple is almost always best. For example, the word “obfuscate” may be accurate, but “hide” would work better.
And think about it: If you need to stop to find the right word, your audience will likely need to stop to understand that word, missing what you say next. So, keep it simple, and go with the first word that comes to mind.
2. Consider cross-cultural communication
Similarly, finding the perfect word may not be a good strategy when you’re speaking to a multicultural audience. Being more precise in this case may backfire, as the more specific you get, the more likely you are to have translation problems.
For example, saying that a beach was “pristine” will be less easily translated than just saying the beach was “clean.” When you’re speaking to a multicultural audience, keep your remarks as general as possible so that you appeal to as many audience members as possible.
3. You’ll get out of rhythm
Another reason you should choose your words less carefully is because thinking about your words can cause you to get out of rhythm. Rhythm is incredibly important in speaking, and if you interrupt your rhythm to stop and think about the best word to use, you will take your audience out of the moment and project uncertainty.
It's better to use an acceptable word than an excellent one if it means you keep your delivery smooth and keep your audience engaged.
4. We listen to ideas, not words
Finally, you should stop worrying about word choice because your audience isn’t really listening to your words anyway. They’re listening to what you’re saying, not necessarily the words you’re using to say it.
We speak at around 150 words per minute, so one word is too small of a unit to be significant. It’s the overall message you’re communicating and the arguments/ideas you’re outlining that really matter. So, focus on the main takeaways you want your audience to have, as well as how you want them to feel. The words will take care of themselves.
Remember, great speaking is not about wordsmithing. So, keep it simple, stay in rhythm, and focus on your ideas for maximum speaking impact.