Eliminate these 5 words/phrases from your speech to be taken seriously.

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.

  1. Like

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.

  1. 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!

  1. Just

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!

  1. 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!

  1. 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.

How Improv Can Make You a Better Speaker and Happier Human

IMPRO Amsterdam Festival

Improvisation theater (improv) is the art of creating theater out of nothing. No script, no director, no rehearsals. Sometimes the improvisors don’t even know the people they are playing with. Still, when you bring experienced players together on a stage, magic can happen. The beauty of it is, improv is for everyone, it is one of the most inclusive communities I know. No wonder, because everyone who has ever done improv knows how enriching it can be to your professional and personal life.

It’s so much fun
First and foremost, if you ask me, improv is simply one of the most enjoyable things in this world. Extreme giggles are guaranteed. There’s just something about a group of 10 adults, bankers, managers, teachers, coaches in their daily lives, walking around a room and pretending to be chickens. Sometimes you’re laughing because everything is going right and great comedy is created, sometimes you’re laughing because the whole scene is getting messed up. One way or another, laugh you shall.

Become fearless
One of the most common fears we humans suffer from is stage fright. Having an audience of people staring at you, not knowing what they are thinking. Particularly, not knowing what they are thinking about you. For many people an absolute nightmare. The best advice I can give these people: go and start doing improv!
Every improv teacher will agree that their most important job during a workshop is maintaining a balance between safety and challenge. Because only in a safe environment we feel like we can experiment and overcome our fear of doing it all wrong all the time. After doing improv for 6 months you will see that you will have overcome a lot of the fear without having even noticed it.

Brain training
Thinking on your feet, creative thinking, finding solutions where there don’t seem to be any, listening and reacting quickly, remembering everything that has happened so far (including where exactly the invisible door is that you just created) all whilst keeping constant track of how your scene partner is doing. Train improv on a regular basis and you will be able to do all these things at the same time. If you can multitask like this on a stage with an audience watching you, why wouldn’t you be able to do it in your daily life as well? At parties you will remember everyone’s name, at work you will come up with the creative solutions, during your presentations you will be able to answer even the toughest of questions and at home you will read your partner’s mood more closely.

Say yes
There is not a more positive bunch than a group of improvisors. The number one rule of improv is called “yes, and…”. Yes, I accept your idea and I will add something that will make the story grow. In other words, improvisors are conditioned to say yes. To go along with other people’s ideas, to try out different things and to act more and talk less. In a culture like my own, the Dutch culture, where often times the answers is “no, but I’ll think about it”, positivity is such a valuable skill to have. Start doing improv and find out for yourself which unexpected and wonderful experiences “yes, and…” can bring you.

When I get to talking about improv, it’s hard for me to stop. When something has enriched your own life like this, you simply need to share it with everyone. All I can add is find your local improv group or beginners course and start experiencing the positivity, safety and challenge, creativity and laughing fits yourself.