Archive for the 'Communicating Effectively' Category

How Can You, Uh, Communicate Better?

In job hunting and in everyday life, there aren’t many things more important than the way you communicate. When I coach clients, I encourage them to plan and rehearse certain information that is common to the job hunt. For example, everyone should have an elevator pitch. Job seekers should be able to answer the “what is your weakness” question without missing a beat.

However, my cyber friend Walter Akana reminds us in his blog post, Conversations Without A Net, “we live in an unscripted world.” While there are a lot of things we can rehearse and plan, other times, we just need to be able to communicate effectively on our feet.

Sometimes, it’s easier said than done! That’s why I wanted to share information from Joey Asher’s blog, Speechworks. His recent post, How to, Like, Eliminate Filler Words, offered some terrific tips for anyone trying to improve their communication skills.

The following is a condensed version of the tips in Joey’s post:

Ums” make us sound uncertain and ignorant

We’re afraid that if we get quiet, someone will interrupt us and we’ll lose our “conversational turn.” However, “filler words” are universally seen as signs of uncertainty and even ignorance.

One social scientist has shown than the words make us sound less intelligent. Robert Gifford, Ph.D., of the University of Victoria in British Columbia., taped high school kids answering tough questions and then played the tapes for other students. The students that avoided the “uhs” were perceived to be smarter.

To eliminate filler-words, first you have to notice them.

Most people don’t even hear their filler words. Why don’t we hear the words? It has to do with our “reticular activation system.” This is the part of our brain that filters out unnecessary sensory data. If we’re driving down the road, we can’t pay attention to every sensory input that passes through our line of sight. Otherwise, we’d get distracted and crash. Our reticular activation system helps us stay focused on what’s important. Similarly, we don’t hear every “um” or “er”.

How can we notice the fillers? We can program our reticular activation system to “let in” certain things. When I bought a silver Honda Accord several years ago, I immediately began seeing silver Accords everywhere. I had programmed my brain to “let in” Honda Accords. Similarly, you can program your brain to notice the “ums” and “ers”. Put a rubber band around your wrist as a reminder.

Once you notice the words, pause and force yourself to speak faster

Once you start noticing the words, the rest is easy. When you feel a filler word coming, just pause. Close your lips as you figure what to say next.

And try speaking faster. Speaking faster eliminates filler words by giving you less time to substitute the “uhs” and “ers.”

Don’t let filler words “clutter” up your speech and make you sound uncertain and ignorant. With just a little focus, you can be sounding smooth and confident.

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September 2020