Thursday, May 13, 2010

Clear out the verbal clutter (2)

The last post was about verbal clutter in print. This post is about verbal clutter in speaking.

Here’s a brief description (289 words) of the what, why and how of verbal clutter in speaking: what the most common words and phrases are, why you should not use them, and how to stop using them. It’s an excerpt from Karen Cortell Reisman’s book,* The Naked Truth about Giving Great Speeches:

“… join the conversation by the water cooler, listen to a reality talk show, or talk to someone on the phone. In these various places, listen for the ‘you knows’, ‘likes’, ‘ums’, ‘ughs’, and the ‘and ums’. We are experiencing a verbal clutter epidemic. You may be saying ‘you know’ at the beginning and end of every phrase and you don’t even realize it! All of this clutter is diminishing your strength as a communicator.

“To decrease your ever-present clutter, you must first become aware of the problem. Listen to yourself talk. Put on your ‘demolish verbal clutter’ hat every time you open your mouth. Think verbal clarity, and then begin to talk. Make this an active, rather than a passive activity.

FIX-IT IDEA: In place of verbal clutter, try adding a pause. Pauses are powerful. Your listeners will listen with keener ears when you’ve added some oral white space.

“Once you’ve succeeded in eradicating this clutter, you can promote yourself to my ‘advanced verbal clutter reduction’ program, which involves getting rid of overused words and phrases. How often do you say ‘basically’, ‘clearly’, ‘honestly’, ‘truly’, ‘I think’, ‘do you know what I mean?’, ‘the bottom line’, ‘am I making sense?’, and ‘at the end of the day’? Again, listen to yourself and monitor these words and other repetitive words/phrases/clichés.

“Why do you say ‘honestly’ and ‘truly’? These words don’t accentuate your point. In fact using these words may cause your listener to wonder if everything else you say is not honest and not truthful. Another huge pitfall is beginning each sentence with ‘I think’. Since the words are flowing out of your mouth we know they are your thoughts. Get rid of the ‘I thinks’, and you’ll gain credibility.” (Emphasis in original.)

The Takeaway: Verbal clutter distracts your listeners. It reduces clarity. It also reduces your persuasiveness and even your credibility. Take the advice of Karen Cortell Reisman: Listen to yourself talk and eradicate the verbal clutter.

*Via the Fall 2005 issue of her E-Zine, “Relatively Speaking.”

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