Culture, How To's, Just for kicks

These 3 words are undermining everything you say

“So is the new like.”

My dear friend Kate recently said this to me and, BAM! I was instantly transported to 1982 and getting a lecture from my journalist Dad about saying “like, you know, and um”. He was relentless with us and it worked. “Like, I just got accepted to Harvard, and um, I’m thinking of studying bio-chem or astro-physics, but like, both are so much fun I can’t decide, you know?” Gag me!

“So is the new like.” These words rung in my ears for days. I was a modern-day Valley Girl, using “So” freely in nearly every sentence. Kate was right and she knows a thing or two about speech and word choice. She owns a successful public speaking training business. She advises and instructs countless top politicians and business professionals on content, clarity and confidence when it comes to public speaking. She helped me see the light and the error of my ways.

But did the filler words end with “So”? Were other words undermining me? I started paying closer attention to these filler words in myself and others and discovered that “So” was not alone and it had some nasty friends.

Ladies and gentlemen, the new filler words of our time are, “So”, “Actually” and “Sort of” and they are killing your message.

speech bubble with "so"
It’s the new “like” and it’s annoying. Everyone uses it freely and it’s my mission to make us all aware of how many people begin sentences, speeches, and presentations with “So”. We are all way more creative than this and definitely come up with something more interesting to begin with than, “So”.

speech bubble with "actually"
This word is a quiet killer of your message. Typically we are using this word to begin a strong statement like this, “Actually, when we put the numbers together you guys stand to make $1.2 million on this giant acquisition.” This use of “actually” is distracting your listener and quietly seeking approval by telling them it’s correct without letting the statement stand on it’s own. Why do you need it? You don’t. If your statement is strong and you trust your words, then confidently declare them without distracting fillers.

Speech bubble with "sort of"
“Congratulations, it’s a boy…sort of”

This one is the worst. Stop using it all together. Please. It undermines whatever wildly intelligent things you are saying. It implies that whatever you are saying is not entirely important. It leaves your listener to think you are wishy-washy, less confident than you are, and unsure of your words. Please stop saying this because it’s working against you.

When you say these words in your presentation, speech or conversation you make your listener doubt what you are saying. I realized I was distracting my listeners. But worse, I was distancing myself from owning the content I was sharing by using these filler words. Was it lack of confidence? Did I think I needed validation from my listeners? Was it simply unconscious speaking? The answer is, yes. All of the above. And I want no part of it.

No matter who I am addressing with my words, I want them to matter. I want my listener to understand me. I am intelligent and have smart opinions and ideas to share, and you want this too. I want my listeners to be as confident in the information I’m sharing as I am. Why on earth am I saying “So”, “Actually” or “Sort of”?

Enough is enough! I’m on a mission to strike these words from my vernacular and I implore you to join me.

Dayna Neumann

boundless. curious. renegade. founder @ execuity

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