Jim Letourneau's Blog

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The Seven Deadly Sins of Speaking

I first wanted to check out Julian Treasure's TED Talk How to speak so that people will want to listen to see if I could pick up a few Toastmaster type tips. Instead, I was schooled in how to be more mindful when I open my yapper.

I'm hyper aware of negativity in conversation. On occasion I am drawn to it (there are some very creative ranters and complainers) but more often than not, I'll start to check out. 

I've listed the sins below along with Treasure's comments.

  1. Gossip, speaking ill of somebody who's not present. Not a nice habit, and we know perfectly well the person gossiping five minutes later will be gossiping about us.
  2. Judging. We know people who are like this in conversation, and it's very hard to listen to somebody if you know that you're being judged and found wanting at the same time.
  3. Negativity. You can fall into this. My mother, in the last years of her life, became very, very negative, and it's hard to listen. I remember one day, I said to her, "It's October 1 today," and she said, "I know, isn't it dreadful?" (Laughter) It's hard to listen when somebody's that negative.
  4. Complaining. Well, this is the national art of the U.K. It's our national sport. We complain about the weather, about sport, about politics, about everything, but actually complaining is viral misery. It's not spreading sunshine and lightness in the world.
  5. Excuses. We've all met this guy. Maybe we've all been this guy. Some people have a blamethrower. They just pass it on to everybody else and don't take responsibility for their actions, and again, hard to listen to somebody who is being like that.
  6. Penultimate, the sixth of the seven, embroidery, exaggeration. It demeans our language, actually, sometimes. For example, if I see something that really is awesome, what do I call it? (Laughter) And then of course this exaggeration becomes lying, out and out lying, and we don't want to listen to people we know are lying to us.
  7. Dogmatism, the confusion of facts with opinions. When those two things get conflated, you're listening into the wind. You know, somebody is bombarding you with their opinions as if they were true.It's difficult to listen to that.

Occasionally people just need to listen to a friend who is going through a rough patch but I always like to say "It would be a shame if we were still talking about this a year from now."