How To Avoid The 5 Deadly Sins Of Speaking So You Will Be Heard

The other day, I had a discussion with a client about creating a video for her business. Describing how to deliver an effective video message that will resonate with emotion, I said it should be designed using the four basic principles of a TED Talk.

1, Share a personal failure or story
2, Expose a pattern you discovered
3, Describe the science
4, Provide a vision of the future

With TED Talks on my mind, that night I went home and after my wife retired for the evening, I launched the TED app on my smart TV and watched a few TED Talks that I always find interesting. One particular talk stuck my fancy titled “How To Speak So That People Want to Listen” by Jillian Treasure. The premise of Jillian’s talk was the seven deadly sins people make when speaking. As I listened to his list of sins, I agreed with some and less so with some others. Moreover, I felt there was one that Jillian missed. I know people that routinely violate the sins of speaking and they have been a constant source of frustration for me when I’m forced to listen to them.

Based on Jillian’s list of seven sins, I have developed my own list of five sins of speaking. While the sins of speaking are mostly common sense, it is helpful to have a list, so you can more easily evaluate your own communications to see if you might be engaging in any of them yourself.

The following is a list of my “don’t dos” when it comes to communicating with others:

Dish Dirt

You know the town gossip who is always dishing dirt about other people. They are always telling you about the latest scandal about a mutual friend or acquaintance. Engaging in gossip and judging others are vain attempts at trying to shed a light on another’s shortcomings to make yourself look more virtuous.

Rather than focus on the good things other’s do, these people focus on disparaging or belittling the efforts of others. Moreover, they don’t do it to their face but behind their backs which makes it even worse.

While on the surface they believe that demeaning others will make them appear more righteous in the eyes of others, most people just see gossip and judging as something the speaker does with others about them when they are not present.

Therefore, dishing dirt about others never achieves its intended results of elevation the speaker and the receiver will be guarded in their communications knowing that anything they say will be shared with others in a negative light.


We all know a person that is a constant whiner when every message they share is either negative or they are complaining about something.

While it might be therapeutic for the speaker, it is a total downer for the receiving party. We all have our own problems and none of us really wants to hear about the speaker’s problems unless they affect us or our family personally.

When you constantly whine about everything, eventually people will at best tune you out and at worst totally ignore or avoid you. Jillian Treasure called whining “Viral Misery” which paints a rather ugly picture.

Make Excuses

Sometimes I get so tired of “It’s not my fault…” excuses. The proverbial “The dog ate my homework” excuse shows a lack of taking responsibility for one’s actions or role in the situation. Better to say, “I made a mistake and left my homework where the dog found it and ate it” than to try to remove all blame for yourself.

When you always make excuses essentially you are lying to the other party because in nearly every situation you have some culpability. “Sorry I’m late, the traffic was bad” really sends the message “You forgot to check your traffic app and you left too late to make it to the meeting on time” Jillian Treasure calls people with a never-ending list of excuses “Blamethowers”.


We all know Commander McBragg who’s embellished stories are often hard to believe.

I see it often especially with business owners that overstate their personal successes or that of their business in the vain attempt to make the receiver think more highly of them than their real-world accomplishments would warrant.

Bullshitters that over-inflate their accomplishments misrepresent the truth and by associations are liars and nobody respects or takes an exaggerators statements seriously.

Argue Relentlessly

How many times have you encountered the person that argues their point even when it is clear that they are wrong.

Their ego is so fragile that they have to feel right all the time and will never admit an error even when they are dead wrong. When you constantly defend your position when others have conclusive evidence that you are wrong, it is like the Aesop’s fable of the boy who cried wolf, in that when you do have the facts in your favor they will not believe you.

Being a business owner requires that you communicate with customers on a regular basis. Therefore, is it essential that you can identify when you might be personally engaging in one of the five deadly sins of speaking or risk turning off your customers.

Are you guilty of one of the five deadly sins of speaking?

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