Lifehacks are valuable when they not only save you time but improve the quality of your life. This one sure will.
Do this: stop using vocal speech pauses. omit “uh, um, ah, like, so, well, etc.” from your speech.
This is the old argument: people who don’t say “um” all the time sound more professional and more intelligent. Of course quantum physicists say “um”. Of course people on the radio say “um” (but we don’t hear it any more because they’ve got computer programs that automatically edit it out–perhaps the first time in history a computer program is invented to actually make the people seem smarter.) My friend John says we’re always smarter on paper. I sure am. I recently listened to myself on the radio, and I sound like a babbling brook called “Uhhhhhh River.” That’s why I write the jokes before I go on stage.
I’d like to re-frame the argument for eliminating speech pauses: saving time and improving quality of life. This is also a shift from an externally referenced mode of being to an internally referenced one.
Part one: time. This part is simple. Anecdotally, i’d say my speech pauses take up0 about 20-30% of my speech. Omit them, and I’ve got 20-30% more conversation time. Put that in your time pipe and smoke it.
- 20-30% shorter conversations with annoying/boring people
- 20-30% more time to give that special someone an opportunity to talk about themselves
- 20-30% more sharing of meaningful glances
- 20-30% more time to plug your new book
- 20-30% more time to get in-depth about the destruction of Borneo’s forest and ancient way of life so giant corporations can make more palm oil.
Part two: power. When you say the word, “well,” you want it have the effect of the moment in the film where the woman tears off her glasses and tells you what she really thinks. Imagine her tearing her glasses on and off three or four times for every sentence. No power whatsoever. And whether you believe your power comes from your performance or your performance comes from your power (sort of a nature versus nurture debate)(I believe it’s about 25%/75%), you gain a lot of power when you stop adulterating what you have to say. And that’s the quality-of-life.
Anecdotal: I’m telling my friend about hearing myself on the radio and noticing the excess language coming from my mouth. I become self-conscious but not self-critical, and I stop saying “um” etc. after one or two very clean sentences, I’m filled with intensity. It’s as if the “um” has been a leak in my hot air balloon, and now I see I can use this new hack to send my balloon up wherever I want to go.
Metaphor: Lynn Twist, who wrote a book called “the soul of money” talks about sufficiency a lot. Her philosophy is that scarcity and abundance are two sides of the same coin, whereas, sufficiency and enough are a whole different model. An excess of words (especially the ones that don’t convey anything) is similar to an excess of anything else; it’s an imbalance. Speaking just the right amount of words is a way you can allow people to “meet” you where you are.
Action: (start small, work slow)
- one minute uh-free
- one phone call uh-free
- one conversation uh-free
- one day uh-free
- record yourself on the phone, in conversation, on stage, listen, and then judge yourself (i know, my blog-tone vascilates from self-help to self-mock and then hits notes existentialism and elation. just enjoy the ride.)