“Does this Make Sense?” and Other Ways We Undermine Ourselves 

While I make a good chunk of my living speaking to audiences, and feel confident on stage – I had to laugh at how much I recognised myself in the post by communications coach Jerry Weissman. He explained: “One trend I’ve noted recently is the expression, “Does that make sense?” often used by a speaker during a conversation — or a presenter during a presentation — to check whether the listener or audience has understood or appreciated what the speaker has just said.”

Unfortunately, this can backfire for several reasons:

The first is uncertainty on the part of the speaker about the accuracy or credibility of the content and the second is doubt about the ability of the audience to comprehend or appreciate the content. ”Does that make sense?” has become so pervasive, it joins the ranks of fillers, empty words that surround and diminish meaningful words, just as weeds diminish the beauty of roses in a garden.

Responsible speakers or presenters, in their well-intentioned effort to satisfy their audience, have every right to check whether their material is getting through. However, instead of casting negativity on the content or the audience, all a speaker has to say is: ”Do you have any questions?”

His post is is a great reminder to me to watch this phrase, which creeps into my speech regularly, as well as the verbiage of other working women I know. Asking if a person has questions puts the onus back on them to ensure they have understood, without diminishing your credibility and confidence in what you are saying – all the more vital if you are a woman working in a male-dominated field.

You can find more tips on presenting in Beyond The Boys Clubs’ Club and another great book which discusses communicating with confidence and power is How To Say It For Women.

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  • Marion

    Suzanne, I am so glad you spotted this and shared it with us!  I fear there are various other tentative word-snots I use without thinking eg “Can I ask a stupid question”.  I shall be on the alert from now on.