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Killer Words: The costly business problem no one ever notices

‘Filler words’ destroy your message, make you look unprepared

HENDERSON, Ky. — What I am about to share with you, you have never heard about before and it’s a killer. But let’s start with what you have heard.

Imagine if you wrote this way: “I, uh, want to talk to you, um, today about the newest, ah, well, trend that we, uh, like, see in the world of, um, AI and, and, where it’s…”

You don’t write this way, so why do you talk this way? Simple: People hate silence. However, silence is golden because it has value. Everyone does talk about how these “filler words” will destroy your message and make you look unprepared, unprofessional and unfocused, and that’s true.

What you haven’t heard before is that these are Killer Words because they kill your most valuable asset: TIME. This is something that no one else, not even such prestigious groups as Toastmasters nor Dale Carnegie, have noticed or addressed.

As I began to pioneer and research this theory, I started watching live interviews. One caught my attention. It was a lady on a local TV program talking about her nonprofit. The whole segment was just under 5 minutes long.

I edited it down to just her speaking, which accounted for 3 minutes and 11 seconds. During that time, she had over 70 of these killer words. I edited it down to just those and it came out to 37 seconds; 37 seconds out of 3 minutes and 11 seconds total.

At this rate, had she been speaking for half an hour, she would have lost over 6 minutes of time to these Killer Words alone. Six minutes. How many other stories could she have told were that not the case? How much more information? How much more time to persuade her audience?

There is a fee to be on this show, which literally means that time was money in this case. Only in situations like this do I agree with that adage. Time is not money. Money has never been, or ever will be, as important as time. Consider this: On your death bed, are you asking for more money or more time?

Everyone says they value their time, but do they? If I asked you to hand me your credit card to let me max it out buying whatever I wanted, you would refuse. But, if I want to waste your time, you will hand it to me on a silver platter. Think meetings. When people are untrained, they use these disfluencies and it’s like nails on a chalk board once you notice.

Here is the link to the actual audio. Nothing was added, it’s exactly as I described. My challenge to you is to endure the entire 37 seconds.

AH UM LADY – YouTube

Chances are high you are doing it and simply are not aware of it, but there is a way to break it. Do you recall having been taught what you should do if you are on fire? This is advice I heard many times as a child and truly expected to have to use often in my lifetime, but luckily it hasn’t happened yet. We were taught to Stop, Drop and Roll. This applies here, too, slightly changed, because I am telling you to Stop, Drop and Pause.

Stop. You know these words are coming, you will learn to hear them if you don’t already. When you hear them coming, just stop talking. Hush. Be quiet. No one will die because you stopped talking. Get used to the comfort of silence.

Drop. Whatever you do, drop the killer words. Don’t let them get from your brain to your lips. When you get used to this idea, you will start to notice it more in yourself and in others. I often get elbowed by my wife because I will start a tic sheet on speakers for this. Try it sometime. It will make you more observant of just how much it’s done.

Pause. Let that silence hang there. Pausing during a presentation or speech does two things: It allows the audience to catch up to what you have said, and it allows you to find your place. If you have lost your place, now is a good time to go back to your notes and find where you were. Let the audience believe you are being thoughtful or want them to linger on the last thing you said. Stay this way until you get back on track.

How can you tell how bad this habit is with you? Record yourself speaking. If you have a presentation or speech to deliver, practice it and record it. Then go back and listen to it. Count the number of times you used the deadly Killer Words. The average person will have 12 per minute, but that’s too many. Try to cut them altogether.

Listen to yourself in your daily speech. Are they there? Probably. Start to pay attention to them then. Here’s the beauty of that, when you get rid of them in your daily speech, they go away in your professional world as well.

When you are presenting or giving a speech, keep in mind what I call “The Time Buffet” that everyone is sharing in that room. You don’t like your time wasted and neither does anyone else. What you don’t want to do is become a glutton of the “Time Buffet,” that person who eats up minutes and then goes back for seconds.

Lewis Chaney is a Relational Communications Specialist forging human connections. A resident of Henderson, Ky., he is a member of the National Speakers Association and a TEDx alum with an extensive background in media and experience in commercial advertising. www.lewischaney.com 



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