Cat got your tongue?
You know what you’d like to say, but the words just won’t come out. Even worse, when they do, folks on the receiving end need a cryptologist to decipher and piece together what you were trying to say.
The skill of clear communication is crucial for so many areas of life. Everybody needs the “gift of the gab.” One of the most crippling factors in speaking are vocalized pauses. Ironing out these space fillers will clear out the litter in our speech.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. give a great illustration, “Talking is like playing on the harp; there is as much in laying the hands on the strings to stop their vibration as in twanging them to bring out their music.”
Let’s look at some common vocalized pauses. How many of them cramp your communication?
Starting off every sentence with so, or well.
Ending every sentence with ay? (Sorry Canadians).
Conjunctions such as: and, but, because, and so are often overly used in speech also.
Here are 7 strategies to work toward becoming a better speaker.
1. Just Breathe
The purpose of vocalized pauses is to allow our brains to catch its breath as it scrambles to find the next word. The brain uses up to 20% of your body’s oxygen intake- it needs breathing just as much as your body does. The next time you engage in a conversation or give a short speech, compose yourself, take three deep breaths, and then step out and talk.
2. Silence is Bliss
Replace the vocalised pause with silence. Remember silence is not a bad thing. While it may seem awkward and stretch on for eternity, you’ll find it’s much better than a vocalized pause. The periods of silence will also shorten as you you get better with limiting pauses in your speech.
3. Be a Fly on the Wall
Keep a tally of when you use an extraneous word, phrase, or make that dreaded sound of a vocalized pause. Begin being aware of your own choice of words in conversations, and also listen to the person you are talking to. See whether you can pick up on some of their own vocalized pauses. Become mindful, conscious, aware of your speech.
4. Talk to Yourself
If you are able to have a few moments before a meeting, or a conversation that you know about ahead of time, go ahead and say out loud to yourself exactly what you intend to say. Weed out all the unnecessary vocalized pauses and ‘filler’ conjunctions in your trial run. This is an exercise that you can repeat often, perhaps while you are driving in your car. Practice the process of weeding out and clearing up your speaking. Work out your speaking muscle.
5. Take Out Some Trash
If you have identified a word or a phrase that you repeat far too often, completely eliminate it from your vocabulary for a day. This will force you to come up with another word or phrase, or simply work on replacing it with silence as you move onto your next word of actual substance.
6. Bring in an Audience
Whether it is your husband, wife, or friends. Ask them to pull you up on the phrase or word that you are trying to iron out. You could even allow them to jab you in the ribs or agree to pay them a dollar every time you fail. Team work makes the dream work.
7. Variety is the Spice of Life
Help your brain help you by giving it more toys to play with- more words to work with. Work on learning a new word each day and look at some other conjunctions that you may interchange with the ones that you most often use. Expand your vocabulary.
Perhaps a final note to add to wrap everything up is the necessity of self-confidence and belief that you not only in the long run will become a better speaker and communicator, but even in your very next conversation. Be confident. There is absolutely an element of faking it till you make it- you need to have a vision of the goal in mind to push you through the rocky road.