The Ladder of Effective Speaking

by Rosemarie Perla

Speaking in a manner that is concise, energetic and clearly communicates ones requests, information and desires is refreshing and important in our information-cluttered age.  As one teacher said, “So many ways of communicating and what ARE WE communicating?”

How many conversations in meetings, emails, face to face and blogs do we come upon in a day—do you feel certain that you are communicating powerfully and successfully?  Too often, we get caught using language that does not sound powerful or effective. Language like, “I should, could, have to, etc.” which communicates more of an “external locus of control.” That is, your response or thinking is based more on what you think others want you to do. This language is more reactive, less powerful and often does not result in what we intended.

Language that is far more effective and concise consists of words like, “I prefer, or plan to, or want to, or have a passion for…” which lets the listener know that you are speaking from more of an “internal locus of control.”  Meaning, you are responding in a well thought out manner that is more receptive and focused – based on your deliberate thinking and experiences.

I owe this valuable teaching to my colleague and friend, Dave Ellis, a Master Coach, workshop leader and author.  In fact, this teaching is so powerful that I use it quite a bit in my coaching practice when describing ways that leaders can develop healthier communication and encourage and teach this in their work places.

Ladder of Effective Speaking/EllisThis graphic that Dave developed shows that when we get stuck in “obligation” we speak with “victim language” (an external locus of control), e.g., “they made me, I should, I must, etc.”  However, if you can think of  climbing the ladder, or as we use more “assertive language” (an internal locus of control) we use language using words like: “Is it possible, I prefer, We have a passion for…, We plan to…, I promise…”

The next time you find yourself speaking and using  “must, should, ought to, need to” question whether your thinking is “stuck in victim mud.”  Ask yourself how you might climb the “ladder of effective speaking” by questioning what you want, prefer or what is even possible that might move you to a sense of personal empowerment regarding your wishes, desires, dreams and plans. And, cause your communication to be more effective, meaningful and powerful.


Ellis, Dave.  Falling Awake.

Ellis, Dave & Lankowitz, Stan. Human Being.



Leadership and Professional Executive Coaching
In my role as an Executive Coach, I see a lot of very talented business owners and leaders who are cracking under the pressure and responsibilities of extremely demanding jobs. They want to make a big impact but are being pulled in every direction, losing themselves within the large system in which they must operate.
The stress of it weighs them down, feeding negative thinking and making it harder for them to keep a bird’s eye view, mental agility, and balance that true leadership requires.