A different kind of tee-up

Anyone who knows me well knows I love to play golf. During the summer, I take advantage of every opportunity to “tee it up.”

This expression, which means, simply, “play golf,” refers to placing the ball on the tee and hitting it (hopefully straight and in the fairway!) to start each hole.

Keep reading to learn more about a different kind of “tee-up” — one that affects how people perceive you during conversations and presentations.

The term “tee-up” can also refer to a common speech pattern. In this case, it means a word or phrase used to start a sentence.

For example:
“Actually…”
“Long story short…”
“As far as I know…”
“In all honesty…”

Do these phases sound familiar?

Why Tee-Ups Interfere with Your Message

While an occasional tee-up may go unnoticed, chronic use of these terms undermine your message and signal warnings to the listener of potential bad news, dishonesty, or insincerity. As a result, the listener prepares for what may come next and doesn’t focus on what is actually being said.

In a Wall Street Journal article, “Why Verbal Tee Ups Like ‘To Be Honest’ Often Signal Insincerity,” Elizabeth Bernstein discussed how these phrases can be confusing to the listener.

Tee-ups may:
Imply the opposite of what the words mean: When you hear “Long story short….,” you know it’s going to be a long story!

Attempt to lessen the impact of bad news: “Don’t take this the wrong way…” may be bracing you for an insult or criticism.

Imply dishonesty: “Let me be honest…” If you have to clarify that your statement is honest, it implies at other times your statements are dishonest.

Do You Use Tee-Ups in Your Everday Speech?

Listen to yourself when you talk to others. Do you use any tee-ups? If so, what are they? In what types of situations do you use them most?

The first step to change is awareness. Become aware of the words you use and the impact they have on the listener. With focused attention, you can begin to reduce or eliminate those starters and communicate in a more honest and sincere manner.

In golf, the fewer shots you take, the better your score. In speaking, the fewer words you can use to get to the point and deliver a clear, concise message, the better your communication.

I’d say that’s “par for the course!” Do you agree?