a negative reaction. You may react negatively to the
person who has difficulty speaking, and that person may
react negativey to your inability to communicate with
him or her.
The person with a speech problem is frequently
sensitive about that problem and will resent any
exaggerated manner of speaking on your part to
overcome it. To overcome this barrier, maintain a
positive attitude and concentrate on understanding the
speakers words rather than the speakers choice of
Avoiding Language That Reflects Prejudice
A major roadblock to effective communication is
the use of words that reflect prejudice and bigotry. Such
words show derision and deny the equality of another
person. They give those who use them a false sense of
superiority. They also reflect the personal characteristics
of the speaker.
Prejudice and bigotry and the use of words that
reflect those characteristics stem from fear, ignorance,
and superstitions. Any term that shows derision could
be included in this category, including commonly used
terms such as snipe and deck ape.
People use words of prejudice and bigotry as a
judging deviceto size people up and to evaluate their
traits. Using such terms relieves them of the need to
know the person. The fallacy of this practice is that their
actions reflect their attitudes and alienate the very
person they are trying to help.
Everyone has prejudices of some kind. They are a
part of our emotional character and the preconceived
opinions we have of a person based on insufficient
evidence. However, prejudices are directly opposed to
our constitutional concept of justicethat a person is
presumed innocent until judged guilty.
Rooting out prejudice takes time and effort, but the
results are well worth it. In the meantime, make a
constant, conscious effort not to use words that create
resentment and anger.
Improving Speech Habits
Some speech habits, such as slurred pronunciation,
running words together, speaking too fast, exaggerated
drawl or brogue, and profanity, interfere with under-
When a customer with one of these speech defects
comes to you for service, concentrate on WHAT is being
saidnot HOW it is said. That will keep the distraction
to a minimum.
The speech of the contact point representative may
create a language barrier as well as that of the customer.
Therefore, you should analyze your own speech pattern
to determine whether you need to improve your manner
of speaking. Its possible that you may have one or more
of the habits discussed here.
Normally, we dont listen to our own speech, but
you can get a reasonably accurate sample of your speech
habits by recording an informal conversation and then
listening to it carefully. Disturbing speech habits are not
too hard to change, but first you must be aware that you
If you find that your speech creates a language
barrier, make an conscious effort either to eliminate the
problem or to compensate for it. To compensate, speak
slowly and give the listener time to follow and interpret
what you are saying or to ask questions.
Avoiding Confusing Terminology
The contact point representative sets the final
barrier through the use of jargon, technical terms, and
acronyms that confuse the customer. Using these terms
and acronyms among coworkers who are familiar with
them is okay. However, do not use them when speaking
to the customer who is not familiar with them.
RESPONDING IN KIND
Just as you respond to the attitudes of other people,
you also respond to their moods. If the customer is in a
friendly mood, you are more likely to be friendly. If the
customer is in an angry mood, you may become cautious
and defensive. If the customer is anxious or worried,
your response may be vague and noncommittal. If the
customer displays an impersonal attitude, you may do
the same. In these situations, you have permitted the
customer to set the mood for your contact. Instead of
taking the initiative, you have responded in kind.
As a contact point representative, you usually
behave in an impersonal, detached manner upon your
first contact with a customer. You behave in this manner
for fear that the person will reject your move by showing
no response or by responding negatively. By first
determining the customers mood, you feel you havent
wasted friendliness or good humor on someone not
worthy of it. However, the best tactic is to reverse the
situation. Instead of waiting to detect the customers
mood, you speak up first. By recognizing the customers
presence in a friendly, positive manner, you may
influence the customers mood.
Showing friendliness is very much like having a
secret power over the behavior of the customer. If the