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6 Tricks To Eliminate Disfluencies From Your Speech

6 Tricks To Eliminate Disfluencies From Your Speech

As a public speaker and broadcaster, I experienced disfluencies in my speech a lot of times during the initial stages of my training. In time, with lots of determination, I was able to overcome this problem.

I’m pretty sure you would like to eradicate your disfluencies too; am I right? Your reasons could be: you’d like to communicate better, and to present yourself as a true professional; someone who has important messages to share, and has the ability to express themselves clearly.

Not like the supervisor-technician who introduced himself during a broadcasting seminar I attended recently. He spoke this way:

“I’m Oscar [not his real name] and, aah, I’ma, um,areatechnical director of XYZ Broadcasting Network, right. And I supervise, like, 25 technicians from, aah, different cities.I, um, oversee, theday to day operations of these, ahh, stationsand make monthly reports of our, mmm,broadcasting operations”.

I was appalled! He is an area director of a huge broadcasting network and he sounded more like a teenager than a professional with a respectable position. While he was talking I began to doubt whether or not he was telling the truth. His ‘ums’, ‘aahs’, ‘likes’, and other filler words made me question his credibility and what he was saying.

Moving on, in these times, when communication skills are a part of the basis of measuring an individual’s credibility, it’s imperative that you invest time to improve your speaking abilities, or at least, develop a stronger ability to express your thoughts. This might be for everyday conversations, meetings, negotiations, or for occasions when you have to address a bigger audience.

To help you out, you can use some of the simple tricks below to, finally, eliminate speech disfluencies:

1. Find out why you experience disfluencies

Disfluencies in speech are breaks or interruptions in speech that negatively affect the communication flow. These disruptions minimize the clarity of your message, and they steal some of your credibility. Nope, actually, to be blunt about it- they steal most of your credibility. But, why do disfluencies appear in your conversations and in your talks?

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They show up most commonly when you stand before a crowd. There are several reasons: when you stand in front of a crowd, there’s a big probability that you’ll be stressed, nervous, or too excited. The worst reason is when you’re petrified your talk will be a mess. Because of these reasons, you’ll often lose the ability to express your thoughts well. Being aware of why you experience disfluencies can help you to address the problem.

2. Find out what errors you frequently make

One of the best ways to check the type of disfluencies you often commit is to record yourself while talking. Based on my many years in broadcasting, I’m biased towards this method to check what kind of disfluencies you experience. By recording yourself while you speak, you can listen to yourself talking and do so over and over again. This way, you can check for repeated mistakes. For example, if it’s the case that you utter “aah” most of the time when you are not sure what to say next, be aware of it and next time you speak, instead of saying “aah”, just stop talking, and stay quiet.

Having a momentary silence is better that saying “aah”. Listen to yourself in a recording, and soon you’ll learn your negative speech tendencies. With the invaluable knowledge that you now possess you can start to learn how to eliminate these fillers. That’s the key to solving this problem: total awareness. There are several ways to do this which will be explained more thoroughly in point 4 and point 5.

Talking about recording yourself, are you comfortable with technology? Yes? I suggest you enlist free audio editing software (GarageBand for Mac users and Audacity for PC users). Utilizing this software will let you see your words in audio format (I know, it’s not easy to believe, but it’s true). For tech-challenged people like me, a simple tool you can use is Utterz.com—all you need to do is dial a number and, presto, your voice will be recorded.

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3. Practice pausing when you’re about to commit a disfluency

After going through point 2, and becoming aware of your disfluencies, you can begin to correct them. When you practice talking, upon getting to the point where you are about to utter a filler sound or a filler word, stay quiet. Pick up from there, then say the next words you want to express. Repeat the procedure every time you get to the point where you’re about to commit a disfluency. It’s actually that easy, but it’s easier said than done. The trick is consistent practice.

The next time you are invited to speak (even at simple gatherings, mind you) practice every little part of your speech. That way, you can start eliminating the specific filler sounds or filler words you often use. Every time you are about to say your favorite filler word, take a pause and keep quiet. Right after that, continue with your speech.

4. Develop your speech rhythm

You use unstudied speech when you fail to plan for a talk. When you fail to do this crucial step, you also fail to organize your talk properly. Hence, if you organize your speech well- meaning you organize your thoughts and points before delivering your speech- you will surely speak better.

Presentation and speech improvement specialist and trainer, Ritchelle Blanco Dejolde, strongly suggests chunking your sentences prior to uttering them, then (this is the important part) pause for a second or two. Dejolde reiterates, “Chunking your sentences will help you create a rhythm in your communication flow: spoken words/then break/spoken words/another break. Keep on with that rhythm and your “aahs” and “umm’s” will evaporate like gas in the air”.

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5. Use pre-planned transitional phrases

Another favorite tactic I use is saying pre-planned transition phrases whenever I have the urge to use one of the filler words I usually say. One such word is “um”. One of its uses is to make your audience be aware that you’re not through with what you’re saying yet, and need to collect your thoughts. A better alternative is to have some ready transitional phrases to use in any presentation or meeting, such as “Let’s move on to…”, “Another important point is…”, or even “Let’s transition to talking about…” At first, doing this will make you feel like a fraud or like you’re being too technical. However, when you regularly practice using these go-to transitional phrases you will start to feel more natural and you will ultimately minimize your tendency to say, “Um,” or any other filler words.

6. Establish and maintain eye contact

Remember when you went on the first dates with your girlfriend? You may not have noticed that you were engaged in a lot of eye contact, but you were. You were unaware that you were establishing such a superb rapport with her through the use of your engaging eye contact. You were like an expert (or actually an expert in that particular moment) in eye contact, since you were experiencing intense emotions. Let’s apply that principle to public speaking. Here, you’ll have to force yourself to make eye contact ’cause you are not in love with the people in front of you. When you are successful with this, you will minimize experiencing disfluencies.

But, why? Simply, it’s awkward to say “aah” when you indulge in sincere eye contact with other people. Try experimenting in your next conversation or talk; stand in a position where you can directly gaze into the crowd you’re addressing and give them the most engaging attention you can give. For another example, during a conference call, do not linger looking at the window or the wall, absently. Do not pace the room while being unmindful of what you’re doing, either. Rather, check your notes, or better yet, your actual script. Basically, when faced with a live audience, an online crowd, or an on-the-phone audience, your fillers will come out lesser if you strive to make eye contact.

In less time than expected, through the effective tactics mentioned here, and with regular practice, I have minimized using filler words. Apply these strategies when preparing your speeches too and sooner rather than later, you’ll eliminate the credibility-stealers you aimed to kick out of your vocabulary.

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Featured photo credit: Public Speaking/Photo Credit: tedxuniversidadedebraslia via Compfight cc via compfight.com

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Anthony Dejolde

TV/Radio personality who educates his audience on entrepreneurship, productivity, and leadership.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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