I’m from a country where everything is “-tje”. Biertje, schooltje, dingetje. This popular extension of Dutch words means little. Therefore, that the words above mean: little beer, little school and little thing. Except for they don’t. When your friend invites you to go out for a biertje, this certainly doesn’t mean that he wants to have shot-sized beers with you. Most of the time, -tje is simply used to make something sound less harsh. However, what it really does in many cases is undermine the speaker. This is why so many Dutch people are campaigning to ban the word “bedrijfje” (little company) from everyone’s vocabulary. Saying that you have a bedrijfje, feels like you’re not taking your business seriously. And although the English language does not have similar, obstinate word extension, there are many speech patterns that have the same effect. So, here are 5 things you should stop saying if you want to be taken seriously.
A few months ago I joined a tourist tour in my own city, Amsterdam. Also joining this tour was a young American girl. Valey girl inflection and all I had such a hard time following her. Mainly because every second word in her sentences was like. “Like, it was like so I was like. Really? Like what was that like?” People are not supposed to talk like that. I know, it’s all very hip and trendy but it’s just terribly difficult to take someone who speaks like that seriously.
Whenever you use the word like you’re actually saying that you’re not willing to commit to what comes after it. “It’s like a really nice website.” No! It’s a really nice website, period.
In case it really is “like” something and not exactly it, try playing around with words such as (see how I avoided like here): similar to.
- Kind of / sort of
These two words are basically the same as like. There’s not used as frequently and not as out of context as like is but still, avoid them! Commit to what you’re saying!
This is a very apologetic word. “I just want to say.” You’re saying that you’re sorry you are speaking up, sorry you’re taking up the audience’s time and that what you’re saying isn’t nearly as important as all the other things your audience could be doing with their time. Stop it!
- Disqualifying yourself
“I am really nervous.” “I’m not good at this.” “I’m no expert but…”
With sentences like these, the audience will start looking for proof that what you’re saying is true. So if the first thing after saying this comes out as a stammer they have their proof and enough reason to stop listening. If you don’t say this and you stammer, it was just a stammer. Which we all do from time to time. Never give them a reason to look for your faults in this way. Never!
- Telling them you’re not worth their time
“I’ll only be up here a minute.” “I won’t bother you for too long.” “I quickly want to say.”
You’re worth listening to. Make that clear. You’re not up there wasting their time, you’re providing your audience with valuable insights. If not, work on becoming a better storyteller rather than excusing yourself for everything you say.
Most of these words have found their way into our subconscious speech patterns which makes it difficult to get rid of. First of all, make sure that they are not in the written version of your speech. Know your speech inside out, this will definitely help. Secondly, practice pausing rather than using filler words. Pausing is awesome! It gives you time to gather your thoughts while looking really intelligent. The audience will feel like you’re building tension.
Asking a friend to help you eliminate these words from your everyday speech will also be very helpful. Because like most things: what helps you become a better speaker on stage, will help you in daily life too.