There is nothing worse than apologizing for your point of view before you make it.
“Sorry, I don’t believe that will work. Basically, I mean, we should bake banana bread without nuts. Ya know? I mean, nuts can be soooo dangerous. Sorry, it’s just so, I mean, bad for so many people…”
Wouldn’t that statement sound stronger and more to the point if the woman said: “We should reconsider and bake banana bread without nuts. Nuts can be dangerous?”
Wow! Sometimes you have to leave out the nuts! And that’s true of sentences as well. Sometimes, the nuts are just fillers! This is a particular problem for women, sounding like you are unsure or apologetic about your opinion. We have built in so many filler words in our speech that they take away from the meaning of our statements.
Do we hear ourselves?
It’s true that in everyday conversation we may not hear how we speak, but, those around us do. Your friends may speak the same way but does your boss? Do the people on the other end of the phone? Does your teacher or instructor? Listen. Is there something about a leader that sounds different?
A primary key to success is better speech. Think about the premise for My Fair Lady. The Professor spends a great deal of time helping Eliza change from her cockney origins to the high-brow elocution of the British upper class. Clothes and hair would not disguise her lack of education but better speech could. We are not talking about Draconian measures here but just simple changes in verbal habits which can make a big difference. Dropping the filler words is a great start.
Make a point to practice speaking without those fillers. It’s not easy to do alone, trying to count how many times you say like or so. But, there is an app to help you keep score and set goals. LikeSo, for iOS, uses voice capture technology to you count filler words and report how fast or slow you speak. So easy. You can practice speaking about anything you want, or use the TalkAbout mode, and get prompted with questions on topics which might be useful: the job or college interview, what’s on the menu, on a date, or small talk, and pop culture conversations.
And like Eliza Doolittle, you will find a change in your habits will give you more confidence every time you speak whether with friends, at work, at school or on the phone. So get the nuts out of the banana bread and remember where the rain in Spain lands!
What do you think? Are filler words driving you mad? Which are your least favorite? Tweet your response to @Helen_Jonsen.
Disclosure: Helen Jonsen has teamed up with LikeSo and Say It Media because it fits our mission to promote better communications.