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Like, Eliminate Ums and Ahs, Right?

Easily eliminate your ums, ahs, and other disfluencies.

By
Lisa B. Marshall,
May 27, 2016
Episode #009

Page 1 of 2

Recently I attended a training course in New York City and at the start of the course each of us introduced ourselves. The senior executive sitting next to me said, and I quote, "I, like, work for a big bank, like, Citibank. I work, um, in technology, and head-up a group of like, 500 people, right. I do, like, technology risk assessment, right, and create, um, processes, to, like, reduce risk, right."

I was shocked.

"Like," "Um," and "Ah" are Credibility Killers

He was a business professional, a senior director at a major organization, and yet he sounded more like a valley girl. His speech was so infected with "like," "right, and "um" that the message was muddled and he significantly diminished his credibility.

These "credibility killers” -- fluency disruptions -- communicate doubt, especially at the end of a phrase. When he was talking, I found myself thinking, "Doesn't he know how exactly many people work for him? Does he work for Citibank, or does he really work somewhere else?";

What Are Disfluencies?

Disfluencies, in general, weaken messages. They’re distracting for your listeners and they make you sound bad.

In the first 30 seconds I counted four "likes" and three "rights" and two "ums". Worse, I'm certain that Tom had no idea that his speech was infected with these verbal viruses. In his defense, credibility killers (e.g. like, so, you know, right, uh, ah) are actually really common in everyday conversation. Researchers say that about 20% of “words” in everyday conversation are disfluencies.

In fact, people around the world fill pauses in their own way. In Britain they say "uh," Hebrew speakers say "ehhh," the Turks say "mmmmm." The Japanese say "eto" (eh-to) and "ano" (ah-no), Spanish speakers "esto", and Mandarin speakers "neige" (NEH-guh) and "jiege" (JEH-guh). In Dutch and German it's "uh, um, mmm." In Swedish it’s "eh, ah, aah, m, mm, hmm, ooh, a and oh" (man, this is starting to sound x-rated podcast, I'd better stop, I think you have the idea!)

As a communication coach, I notice disfluencies the most when people are nervous; for some people it's the only time these little buggers show up.

So today's article is about what can you do to boost your immunity to these viruses. Its about how you can reduce disfluencies. Notice I didn’t say get rid of them all together. Reduction, versus complete elimination, should be your goal.

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