Who doesn’t want to sound eloquent, intelligent, and credible when they speak?

How often times do you use “honestly,” “just,” “things,” “sorry,” or some other crutch-word in your sentences? This article on LinkedIn was spot-on with its identification of these often used “useless” terms that find their way into our everyday conversations, business discussions, and speeches. When we fall back on these words, they make us more difficult to understand, distracting our audience and making our meaning obscure.

All of us are guilty of using these words sometimes, but we can largely eliminate them from our vocabularies through practice. The first step to reaching that goal is to determine which ones you use and how frequently you use them. To do that, I recommend joining Toastmasters or finding a “Speech Accountability Partner.” 

Toastmasters is an organization that seeks to improve its members’ public speaking ability in regular meetings. In Toastmasters, one has the opportunity to improve their communication skills by giving one to two minute impromptu speeches or five to seven minute prepared speeches. Each time one speaks, a colleague reviews it, provides praise for what is done well, and identifies areas which can be improved. The use of crutch words is one of the items that Toastmasters members are taught to look for, which means that simply joining your local chapter and participating consistently will help you to work these problem words and phrases out of your speech.

If you don’t have access to a Toastmasters club, get someone to be your “Speech Accountability Partner.” That could be a friend, colleague, mentor, or manager. The point is to have someone who is around often to tell you when you’re using crutch-words. Their job is to bring your attention to what you need to change, and your awareness will cause you to start thinking about how to be more direct in your communication. This method works best when you are also your partner’s Speech Accountability Partner. Each of you can hold the other accountable for their habits and grow together. 

Whether you are lucky enough to have a Toastmaster’s club nearby or if you go the accountability partner route, the important thing is having other people to examine your speech. The use of crutch words is a bad habit that gets deeply ingrained in our daily communication, and it takes an observer’s perspective to see what they are and how often you’re depending on them. The ability to get ideas across in a concise manner is held in high esteem in both professional and day-to-day environments, and improvement is as simple as reaching out to the people around you for help. Look around for a Toastmaster’s club or find someone to assist you. Either way, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to remove your crutch words with a little bit of work.

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