Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Filler Words. Mindfulness Week 3.

Week 3 - Mindfulness challenge:

This week, through the mindfulness challenge, I am tasked to use no 'filler words'. These words are those that we fill in when we need to extend, add nonverbal weight, or procrastinate within a sentence... An example, "So, I was talking to my cousin, like, just the other day, and she, uh, she was working on this thing that is basically an art project, anyway, she like doesn't know what to do with the end product, or something." In this case, the italicized words are filler... they don't add any meaning to the sentence itself. We say them because they, like... they do something for us, anyway... the assignment is to identify them and remove them from our vocabulary.

Because of my line of work, I'm naturally sensitive to certain filler phrases. I have been cataloguing them for years, actually. It's somewhat of a tic, each time people say words or phrases that I find worthless in their speech, especially repeat offenders, I count the instance. It's so bad for certain people that I can't hear any of their message, and their phrases or words are in the quadruple digits of lifetime misuse. There is a trainer at work who says 'things of that nature' so much during her presentations, that I have never been able to watch a single training she presents without missing the message entirely, leaving only with a tally of "TOFTN's". It especially bothers me when people say things that are filler phrases, but incorrectly... for instance, I had a boss that used to say 'things to that nature' instead, a double-whammy. Not only is the phrase completely worthless, but it is more meaningless because it was repeated incorrectly.

Besides some OCD tendencies, this focus comes from a deep root within my development, since I have a stutter. Many people with stutters add utterances or sounds to their speech to cover the pause or stammer that is occurring on certain words. For instance, instead of saying t-t-t-traffic, I might say uh-traffic instead. I've worked very hard over the years to avoid these cover (filler) words, instead, adjusting the cadence of my speech to disguise the stammer with a pregnant pause that sounds thoughtful or natural. It doesn't mean I've eliminated filler words, just that I've adapted to the problem I used them to cover. So this week, to experience mindfulness, I'll examine speech, and find the words I use to say nothing at all. I spend a good time yapping thoughtlessly, so it should be quite a task. I'll start by recording a training I have early tomorrow and counting my own worthless speech.

On my list to remove, before ever listening to myself for this meaning:
  • apparently
  • so
  • like
  • absolutely (not filler, just overused by me)
  • uh
  • pauses
I challenge you to examine your speech, how much time do you spend making worthless noise? And who do you subject to mindless filler words? Do you use them more often when you're made nervous by your audience? Bored? Uncertain?

Our words communicate our entire being, our intelligence, socialization, interest level, confidence, and sometimes, our message (if we're lucky). Don't they deserve a little scrutiny to ensure we're communicating directly, not shrouding our message in verbal smoke and mirrors?

Good luck, like, seriously.

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