Are You Sticking Your Foot In Your Mouth When You Open It?
Before reading the newsletter, I encourage you to view the following videos. The first one is an interview with Caroline Kennedy. The following two links are similar in content, but the second one has a slight twist. You only need to listen to the first 30 seconds of each to get the point:
This next one is a humorous excerpt of “The Late Show With David Letterman” poking fun at Barack Obama:
Here is an interview on Jay Leno with Barack Obama. When you watch it, think of the previous video:
So what's the message?
Well, uh, you know, like, it doesn't matter how important you are, you can drown your message with a crutch. What does that mean?
Caroline Kennedy, Barack Obama, as well as many other people use what are called “crutch words” as part of their speech pattern. Crutch words are any words that are present only to fill the silence, but serve no purpose in the message. “You know,” “uhm,” “ahh,” “I think,” “like,” are some of the most common examples of crutch words.
Whether you are delivering a speech, going through and interview or simply having a conversation, crutch words will overpower anything you say if they become too pronounced.
In the case of Obama and Kennedy, it has become so pervasive that people make a game out of counting how many times they make use of the crutch words. The net result is that the message gets lost and focus is drawn to where it should not.
When you do this in a speech, it irritates the audience. When you do it in a conversation, it irritates your listener and makes you seem undecided at best. Taken to an extreme, people may even think that you are lying.
Whatever the result, crutch words are never useful as part of your speech pattern. So what can you do to take care of that?
Pay attention to them: listen closely when you speak in conversations, on the phone, or when you are delivering a speech. Pay special attention to determine whether there are words or phrases that you use often, either when you are unsure what to say next, or because of habit.
Eliminate them: once you've identified your favourite crutch words, work actively to eliminate them. Do it one word at a time: don't try to eliminate them all at once. It will be easier and less stressful for you to remove “you know” from your speech than to try and remove “you know,” “like,” and “uhm” simultaneously.
Speak more slowly: one of the main reasons my coaching clients use crutch words is that they try to speak too fast. They are trying to fill the silence as much as possible and crutch words do just that. Instead, speak a bit more slowly and deliberately. If you are unsure what to say next, then pause for a couple of seconds before speaking. If you “uhm” and “ahh” your way through a conversation, you will seem stupid. If you pause before saying something, you will look brilliant.
Crutch words are never a good solution when speaking or conversing. When you remove them from your vocabulary, you become a better communicator, and you will get your point across more easily and effectively.
© Laurent Duperval