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bill mcfarlan, pink elephant, speaking confidently

Clear communication: Christmas in New York

We’re in New York.

The week before Christmas.

The Rockefeller tree is huge and magnificent.

The streets are bedecked with massive, dazzling decorations.

Santa Claus is in Macy’s.

Performing miracles on 34th Street.

But something is missing.

Is it snow?

No, we walk through a blizzard.

Hot chestnuts in Manhattan?

No, they’re on sale on every street corner?

Could it be a scandal over Donald Trump?

No, he’s just been impeached.

What’s missing is something common in the UK.

It’s what we call the watering down words.

Read on.

Culture clash

clear communication, presentation skills glasgow, culture clash

I knew they were rarely seen in the States.

Because that’s how I first became aware of them.

Having run presentation skills courses across the UK for years, I began running them in the USA 20 years ago.

As well as across continental Europe.

And that’s when when I realised they were missing.

Words like “try”.

And “hopefully”.

And “do our best”.

These were missing when you spoke with Americans.

But always there when speaking with Brits.

It took me a while to figure out why.

But I came up with two explanations.

Reason One: Commitment avoidance

clear communication, presentation skills glasgow, fear of commitment

In the UK, we worry about over-promising.

And under-delivering.

So we avoid taking the chance.

And we water down our commitment at the start.

We say:

“I’ll try and join you for a drink.”

“Hopefully you’ll take something from my presentation.”

“I’ll do my best to get you the report by Friday.”

And it all adds up to diddly-squat.

Because we diluted our pledge.

Reason Two: Fear of being branded a big-head

clear communication, presentation skills glasgow, fear of being branded a big head

Brits are OK these days with confidence.

But they still worry about arrogance.

So why take the chance of being mistaken as such?

We add some false modesty to avoid being thought of as a big-head.

So now we can avoid over-committing while ensuring people like our humility.

We water everything down.

Trouble is, we just sound wishy-washy.

Both reasons are deeply flawed.

Both are born out of fear.

We need to show more commitment.

Across the pond

clear communication, presentation skills glasgow, across the pond

So why do Americans talk differently?

Well, they’re more confident when making commitments.

And they grow up with more belief in themselves.

And less fear of what others think.

They’re encouraged to speak up in class at school.

While I was told to sit down and shut up.

It’s getting better with each generation in the UK.

But only very slowly.

We may be driving down the fast lane of the motorway.

But the handbrake’s firmly on.

Clear communication

clear communication, presentation skills glasgow, pink elephant

The absence of watering down words made our three courses in New York more pleasant.

Each presentation sounded more committed because of words being left out.

Removing these words only strengthens our attitude.

Rather than the outcome.

So what are we afraid of in UK?

That we actually win some business?

If you want to hear people talk with more certainty, visit New York City.

If you want to learn how to talk with more commitment, book a Pink Elephant course.

We’ll do our best to help you.

Well, we’ll try.

Hopefully you’ll improve.

I’m kidding.

Our clear goal is to make you a more confident presenter than when you first arrive.

And our firm belief is that it’s possible for anyone to become a good speaker.

Come find out for yourself.


Bill McFarlan is co-Founder and Executive Chairman at Pink Elephant Communications in Glasgow.

You can read his full profile here.


Photos by Pink Elephant.

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