12 Words and Phrases That Automatically Kill Your Self Image

My mother was out of the country for a while and came last Thursday. We had a lot to catch up on. Once she finished relating her part of the world, I started giving an update of my life. After sometime, out of the blue, she made a rather alarming comment. Apparently, while I was talking she had counted the number of times I used the word “like” (I am too embarrassed to mention the number!). My initial reaction was to deny it. My mind said, “Yeah mum, nice to have you back!”. As I continued the conversation, every time I said the word “like” she would also say it; over and over again. It sounded funny and we both started giggling. Painfully, I had to admit it. She was right; I was repeatedly using the word "like".

The problem is none of us say these words intentionally. Some people don’t even notice they are even doing it (if my mother hadn’t pointed out, I would either). It has become a habit.
So I did some reading on the subject and thought of sharing what I learned.

Dangerous Words = Spurious spacers , Wimpy words

Spurious spacers are fillers that we put into speeches to fill the gaps when we are nervous or have to think about the next word to say. Repetitive use of these words can become pesky and annoying.

words to watch out
"Um...", “Err...”
"Like..."
"Actually.."
"Really.."
"Right"
“Typically”
[Add your word list here]

The next time you are in the audience at someone else’s demo or presentation, keep track of how many times the presenter says one particular spacer, such as "like" or "you know." You may be astonished to find the number of uses of the spacer, is nearly double the number of sentences delivered.

Wimpy words express a sense of ambiguity, lack of definition and increase perceived complexity.

Words That Automatically Kill Your Self Image
words to watch out
"You know?"
"Know what I mean?"
"As you can see..."
"Sort of", “Kind of”
"Hopefully..."
"Needless to say…"
[Add your word list here]


Tips to overcome the habit

1. If you can admit to yourself that you are one of those people who say such words, you can be more conscience in your conversations. List down the words you repeatedly use. Force awareness upon yourself. It might take a while for you to get over the habit. Keep noticing, until you stop!

2. Ask your loved ones and friends to help out. Even though I didn’t react very well when my mother pointed it out, I am glad she did. The fact that she is on my back, helps. (Thanks mum)

Is it wrong to use these words? (My two cents)

I am in the company of my friends; I happen to slip a few filter words into the conversation. Is it wrong? No, I don’t think so. After all, I am what I say, in each and every way. I should be able to “be myself” at least around them. (If your friends find it irritating, you might have to find some new friends!)

However, in a “professional context” using these words can lead to career suicide. For example, when making a presentation or speaking to a client, we are compelled to portray a professional image. Using words like “sort of”, “kind of” might imply that we are not being thorough.
The problem lies in switching from a “friendly” atmosphere to a “professional” atmosphere. After all, habit is a habit! How do you force yourself into awareness in one instance, and let loose, in another instance?

What are your thoughts on this?

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63 comments:

AlexG said...

When I decided to take care this part of my life to be a better communicator I definetly wasn't happy with the words I used and my tonality.

I used to record myself talking and having a regular conversation then listen back to see what I needed to improve.

Avani-Mehta said...

Um, Err, Like ... etc are really all right to use if you choose to do so wherever you want. However, I don't think it is possible to switch on and off a speech habit.

If you do use words like have-to, cannot etc then probably you need to start worry about it.

I enjoyed your post very much. Reminded me of a professor who had habit of using 'out there' after almost every second sentence :)

Shamelle said...

@AlexG: Recording yourself is a good idea.
I know a friend who wanted to improve her presentation skills. (She wanted to get rid of unwanted hand gestures.) So she got one of her colleagues to video her.

@Avani-Mehta: Yes, I think most people(including me!) find it difficult "switch context". Lets hope your professor read this post! he he

Marelisa said...

I use "actually" a lot (I even heard the word in my head spoken with my voice when I read it here). I saw a video the other day of words you shouldn't use on your blog, and the word "teach" jumped out at me (I know I use it a lot on my blog). Apparently you're supposed to say "this will show you how to" instead of "this will teach you how to". So I agree that every little word can have an impact.

Shamelle said...

Nice to know that I am not alone in this battle with words!
I didn't know about refraining from using the word "teach". Thank you for letting us know.

kaylee said...

Nice post :)

Shamelle said...

Thanks Kaylee

John said...

Conversation is more powerful when the useless words and all the "ums" are eliminated. When we write, we are careful to use only the necessary words because we want to communicate effectively. Speech deserves the same respect.

I catch myself using filler words, but I find it is an enjoyable challenge to improve that. When someone else points it out like that though, it might be a little irritating to me :-)

John

Shamelle said...

@John: Yes it is challenge as well as rather annoying to filter out these words ;-0)
Thank you for sharing your experience.

Tom Volkar / Delightful Work said...

I definitely agree, these words are wimpy and have no relevance except for what they say about those who use them.

Ryan said...

I do find myself using filler words in conversation but also find it funny that people rely on their spell-checkers too much.
Using the wrong word - although spelled correctly - shows that someone is either in a hurry or doesn't do enough proof-reading before publishing. Some examples are accept for except or effect for affect.
You started out with a good example - you can be more conscience in your conversations - should be "conscious". I find myself having to proof-read a few times before I publish something. Firstly, for spelling and secondly to make sure I say everything I need to say succinctly with as few words as possible.

Martin Wildam said...

Although I do not think all of these words to be "wimpy" and "spurious" (e.g. sort of, know what I mean?) you give me an important hint through this: Don't add any unnecessary stuff. Minimize your words to those with content.

Kiefers Corner said...

My son started worked for a Chevy dealership and it wasn’t long till he started using the F--- word consistently. I told him how many times he used the word in one conversation once and he didn’t believe he said it that many times. He then told me they all talked that way there.

The best way to avoid falling into a speech pattern is to avoid hanging around people who speak that way. Eventually you will mimic whom you associate with.

suraj naik said...

"What i feel is, some time such words gives the conversation a more depth & may be a personal touch as well".

what if you read my above statement as I am infront of you. see my sentence ends with "as well" & its like i am trying to give a personal touch to my conversation. "You know"!

let me know what you think about this! I think this is not wrong when you are conversing with your closed ones. May be in professional life, it should be avoided.

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If you do use words like have-to, cannot etc then probably you need to start worry about it.

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If you do use words like have-to, cannot etc then probably you need to start worry about it.

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If you do use words like have-to, cannot etc then probably you need to start worry about it.

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I used to record myself talking and having a regular conversation then listen back to see what I needed to improve.

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If you do use words like have-to, cannot etc then probably you need to start worry about it.

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If you do use words like have-to, cannot etc then probably you need to start worry about it.

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You may be astonished to find the number of uses of the spacer, is nearly double the number of sentences delivered.

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If you do use words like have-to, cannot etc then probably you need to start worry about it.

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However, in a “professional context” using these words can lead to career suicide. For example, when making a presentation or speaking to a client, we are compelled to portray a professional image. Using words like “sort of”, “kind of” might imply that we are not being thorough.

concrete batch plant said...

I used to record myself talking and having a regular conversation then listen back to see what I needed to improve.

portable batch plant said...

If you do use words like have-to, cannot etc then probably you need to start worry about it.

concrete batch plant said...

If you do use words like have-to, cannot etc then probably you need to start worry about it.

concrete batch plant said...

If you do use words like have-to, cannot etc then probably you need to start worry about it.

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I didn't know about refraining from using the word "teach". Thank you for letting us know.

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I didn't know about refraining from using the word "teach". Thank you for letting us know.

concrete batch plant said...

If you can admit to yourself that you are one of those people who say such words, you can be more conscience in your conversations. List down the words you repeatedly use.

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Even though I didn’t react very well when my mother pointed it out, I am glad she did.

concrete batch plant said...

I used to record myself talking and having a regular conversation then listen back to see what I needed to improve.

concrete batch plant said...

we are compelled to portray a professional image. Using words like “sort of”, “kind of” might imply that we are not being thorough.

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