Pop quiz: What are three of the weakest phrases you could use in your communications? If your list includes the following, you're in good company:
If you matched three of these, you win a case of Eskimo pies and a year's supply of Rice-a-Roni. (I sort of made that last part up).
According to Richard Peterson of the Presentation Coaching Institute, we often dilute powerful messages with these meaningless fillers. Right away they cast doubt.
Think about it. When you hear these words, do you find yourself secretly wishing the speaker would get to the point? And then you may turn right around and find yourself doing the same thing out of habit.
Years ago my sister brought this to my attention (thanks, Paula!), and now I cringe when I hear "kind of/sort of" overused - or even catch myself saying them.
Consider this scenario posed by the Presentation Coaching Institute:
"Ladies and gentlemen, we should have, you know, really begun our final descent to, ummm, our destination today. I'll sort of really try to land the aircraft safely." Doesn't instill a lot of confidence in the pilot, does it?
There are two types of words and phrases to avoid, according to Peter Cohan of the company The Second Derivative:
1) Spurious spacers (um, like, you know ...)
2) Wimpy words (kind of, sort of, maybe ...)
Spurious spacers are typically less destructive, but are still annoying. When you're listening to a speaker who repeatedly uses these words or phrases, do you find yourself being distracted and drawn to counting the number of times he or she repeats them? Don't be surprised if you find the number of uses of the Spacer is nearly double the number of sentences delivered. Know what I mean (another offensive phrase)?
Wimpy words are the worst. They interfere with clarity. In the business world, companies want to work with vendors who can get the job done- not those who can "kind of" deliver.
What you say, how you say it and how others hear it can make or break your message. Why do you think prosecutors and defense lawyers work so hard on their opening and closing statements?
Can you imagine Perry Mason or the characters in "Law and Order" addressing a jury like this: "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I sort of, you know, want to take this opportunity to, ummm, point out some things that I believe maybe should really make a difference in your thinking. I'll try to, like, kind of show you so you probably could decide. You know what I mean?"
While you may not have to prove your point beyond the shadow of a doubt, you'd better believe your listeners are picking up these cues just like the jurors in this example.
How to get your point across with impact is the subject of "Learn Five Strategies to Communicate Like a Pro" by author Donna Arnett. Power comes from clear communication that inspires and motivates others, according to Arnett. The art of communication involves not only the words you say; it involves the sound of your voice, body language and eye contact.
Some people appear to be "natural communicators." They are seen as having the ability to: