Just. Kinda. Maybe. Hopefully. Think. Uhm. Like. Ok. Great. Really. I understand. Sort of. A little bit. Can you. Don’t you. Wow. Awesome.

Think how many of these words are sprinkled into one brief conversation—adding absolutely no meaning but taking up valuable air space. Your air space.

We are intent listeners of people’s conversation. We also help people to hear their own conversation—through thorough note taking, audiotaping and videotaping. To a person: each individual is always shocked at how many words they articulate verbally while having no awareness of doing so—until confronted with the reality of hearing themselves.

Why do we do it? Why would we say meaningless words that have no usefulness to improving the conversation? It’s almost laughable except that it is really serious—if you need to be taken seriously, and heard with credibility. Who wants a leader or a trusted advisor who wastes time and air? Who clogs up the speaking time? Who can’t get to the point? Who uses meaningless words? Who limits their owncredibility with uncertainty?

Our best assumption on why we use meaningless filler words is that we are uncomfortable with silence. And we know better than to use “uhm”, the universal no-no to being viewed as articulate whether it’s in a speaking club or in front of your team or with peers. Rather than simply trusting silence and valuable, meaningful words put together in impactful sentences.  Instead, we may be a bit uncomfortable, or uncertain that we’ve actually “got it,” so in a passive, subconscious way we try to apologize or soft-pedal our sentences, hoping to make the words and ourselves “just” a little more pleasing and easier to listen to. Such as a salesperson asking if they could have “around 10 minutes to have you tell me a little bit about your business.” The great salespeople and conversationalists we know don’t want “a little bit” of anything and they get very specific as to the amount of time what they are after will require.

I’ve also observed that we speak mostly “from the hip”, not rehearsed, not thought-out. Thus, “any words will do in a pinch.” Therefore, any number of words come tumbling out of our mouths trying to get to the essence of what we think we are after.

No wonder we often don’t get what we are after. And no wonder people look at us in wonderment and amazement at times. We’ve confused them and they aren’t quite sure where to begin to decipher what you truly mean, want, or believe.

It takes work but getting the essence down—in writing and then in your head—of the key points you want your listener, customer, team, to leave your conversation with is essential for getting to the point, being impactful and accomplishing your objective. White space, silence, fewer words vs. more, the real thing is what our clients are after—once they’ve heard their own junk words that simply take up space.

It’s Spring. Is it time for refreshing your vocabulary and cleaning out the meaningless words that clog up your clarity? The saying “less is more” could not be more true when it comes to word choices.

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