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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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Published on April 7, 2021

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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2. They Make Everything Transactional

Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

Some statements to be wary of include:

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  • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
  • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
  • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
  • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

3. They Criticize Everything

One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

  • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
  • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
  • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
  • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

5. They Socially Isolate You

Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

  • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
  • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
  • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
  • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

Final Thoughts

It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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