A frequent challenge when speaking is to avoid adding empty phrases when you communicate.
And there are a few popular ones doing the rounds at the moment which, in my view, weaken and dilute the message you’re trying to convey.
When we want to get a point across at work, whether in a conversation, meeting or presentation, it’s important to be clear and crisp (unless, of course, we’re trying to create a smokescreen or divert attention from something undesirable!).
And there are some empty phrases which just bloat our communication. Here’s a recent quote from a high-level sportsperson in the AFL (Australian Football League) which leapt out at me:
“Each and every individual that walks into our club can be a leader in some way, shape or form…”
Two empty phrases in one sentence! I particularly dislike “in some way, shape or form” and am hearing it everywhere at the moment.
Think about it: adding three versions adds zero to the meaning, and whole lot of fluff and bloat to the sentence!
Why not just: “Every individual that walks into our club can be a leader”.
“Think about how much of an impact we can make: our processes, ideas, projects…and so on and so forth.”
I don’t like this one either. It’s long-winded, and essentially meaningless. “And so on” is fine if you want to convey that you have a lot of other examples, and don’t need to add them right now. But cut out “and so forth”. That’s fluff and a waste of space.
Reasons why we do it:
- It’s a habit
- We’re speaking on the fly, and are feeling our way, searching for the words we really want
- Our goal is to emphasise the point we’re making by using more words
- We haven’t thought our ideas through well-enough beforehand (see point #2!)
- We’re nervous, and the extra words “just fall out!” as a client told me
And the solutions to avoid empty phrases when you communicate?
- Become aware of when you use these phrases. Tune into what you say more keenly, or ask people you trust: they may be very aware of certain pet phrases you often trot out, even if you’re not!
- Allow more pauses and space, and take your time to choose your words carefully
- Use vocal tone to emphasise instead
- Take time before you speak or present – if it’s important – to craft your messages
- If you’re nervous: breathe, practise as much as possible in a safe environment, and get help if you need it
Making sure you avoid empty phrases when you communicate – like the ones I mention above – will vastly improve the clarity and crispness of your style. You’ll have greater impact. And you’ll avoid merely adding word-count and noise to your ideas.