We’ve all had to learn how to do public speaking or simply knowing how to communicate clearly professionally for a job – and then we get caught off guard with crutch words like “um, so, like, you know?, etc.” the list goes on. people are raised with the confidence to speak clearly and effectively but for those who haven’t, these crutch words haunt you to be fillers and cause more anxiety when trying to socialize. Especially after the pandemic, we’ve all had to re-learn how to talk to each other and improve our speaking skills again. Whether it’s for interviews, podcasts, meetings, or on camera – we’ve come up with three essential tips to use less crutch words and practice speaking more clearly.
When we use crutch words and depend on them – we tend to lose the attention of the listener and our credibility to our knowledge of the message we are trying to get across. The first step of changing a habit is to acknowledge that there is one. As a person who is learning to overcome social anxiety and become a better communicator, the first thing that helps – whether it be a meeting, public speech, or making a new friend – always prepare and practice. So what does this look like?
Before a meeting or interview, you can set intentions and write down what you want to communicate or questions you want to ask the other person/persons’. The more prepared you are, the more clearly you will communicate ideas, stories, navigate conflict, and solve problems. On a personal level, making friends as an adult is also difficult. You will often not be prepared for that first exact meeting conversation. What I’ve found to help is to be self-aware, talk about your passions and discern whether you connect with others through similar interests or values. Another tip is to always ask questions about the other person, there is always something you can learn about another person. Be prepared to have your go-to conversation questions and answers!
The second tip to practice is to embrace the silence. Most of the time our thoughts are running faster than we can articulate what we want to say. When we catch ourselves using crutch words, remember that you have the right to pause and think about what you’re about to say or organize your thoughts before they become scrambled. The silence creates space for more clear communication – it might feel awkward or uncomfortable at first, but the more you practice stopping your tracks, you will start to feel more confident and present in the conversation or interview. Sometimes you won’t have an answer to a question or have an opinion on something, and that’s okay too. It allows you to redirect the conversation in another direction.
The last tip to become a better communicator is by being an active listener! When you have a conversation with someone, in a meeting or are being interviewed – sometimes our anxiety comes from not listening and letting our thoughts go all over the place. To gather more information to communicate clearly and effectively, you will need to train your mind to be present and listen to who you’re talking to. Like truly listen. Sometimes it’s okay to go on a tangent but circling back your thoughts to the present will help you use less crutch words and speak with confidence. When you catch your mind going at 1,000 miles per hour, always think about being present and to listen.
Crutch words aren’t the end of the world and we aren’t perfect human beings. So don’t be so hard on yourself if you catch yourself using them from time to time. But know if you want to become a better speaker and communicator – follow these three practices when you are in your next meeting, interview, podcast, etc. Trust us, you will have less anxiety and more confidence the more you are prepared. In the end, be open to growth and the change you wish to see.
Written by Senior Editor, Devin Phaly | Jan. 20, 2023
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