This past weekend, I was at the breakfast table sharing coffee with my wife, and our seven-year old son. While we were sitting there, he asked me lots of questions (as always) about whatever was inside his head. Today, it was plants and how they grow. And I said something like, “All living things keep growing, all the time.” He pushed back and said, “All living things, Daddy?”
I thought about it for a moment, realized the limits of my knowledge of biology, and started to backtrack a bit. I said “maybe not everything, but pretty much most living things grow.”
He then asked me, “Daddy, what does ‘pretty much’ mean?”
My wife Emily looked at me and smiled, because she knows how much time I spend every day coaching people to eliminate phrases like “pretty much” from their speech pattern. And here I was, using that exact phrase with my son, because I didn’t know the exact answer and I needed a hedge.
Weak phrases like “pretty much,” “sort of,” “kind of,” or “a little bit,” don’t actually add a lot to your message. Phrases like these make you sound exactly the way I sounded to my son this morning. These kinds of phrases make you sound unsure, like you are hedging, because that is exactly what you ARE doing.
People waste words all the time, filling up the space with extra language that doesn’t actually communicate much, doesn’t add anything to our message.
At The Latimer Group, we always coach our clients to say what they mean, exactly what they mean, and to get to the point in as few a words as possible. Weak phrases like the ones above, or filler words like “however” or “nevertheless” do nothing but take up time.
The best speakers I know don’t waste words. The best speakers I know say what they mean, as clearly as possible, in as few words as possible.
Record yourself when you speak sometime, even just a phone call. And count how many times you use weak phrases like “sort of” or how many words you use to fill space.
If you can eliminate the extra words or unnecessary phrases, you will be able to get to the point more quickly, you will be more likely to keep your audience’s attention and your audience will know exactly what you are trying to say.
Have a great day.