Midlife Mom

Navigating the teen years… and beyond

Can we, you know, talk?

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How closely do you pay attention to your speech habits?

I need to pay much closer attention to mine. Sometimes I think I sound worse than my 20-something and teenage children. It gets embarrassing, really, when my husband listens to my phone conversations and calls out “Stop saying ‘you know’!” Then, of course, I freeze, aware of every word coming out of my mouth and appalled at the number of times I catch myself about to use this phrase or one like it.

And panic sets in. Do I do this at work? How unprofessional it will make me sound if I do!

After all, I don’t want to be like my high school classmate who said “like” so many times — literally, it was every fourth or fifth word that came out of her mouth — that people had a hard time hearing what she was actually trying to say.

I’m not sure when or how I took on this habit of using what are called “fillers” in my speech. Whether it’s “you know,” “like,” “ummmmm” or something else, many of us use these words in our everyday conversation. Experts say we use them to fill in space until we’re ready to say whatever it is we want to say. I agree with this to an extent, especially with the use of “ummmmm.” But often what is said before and after the filler word comes out of our mouths so quickly that it certainly doesn’t seem as if it’s being used as a pause until the right words come. It seems more like a bad habit that needs to be broken.

My kids use these words to some extent, but just like me, some days they’re better about it than others. In fact, most days I think they’re probably better at keeping these words from their speech than I am. I need to follow their example!

I’m not sure what it will take. Experts say you have to pay close attention to your own speech habits and become more aware of what you’re saying. Stop talking. Wait until you know what you want to say and say it. I’ll give it a try. Of course, a slap on the wrist from someone who hears me using one of these phrases wouldn’t hurt — or maybe it would!

So I think I’m going to ask for the kids’ help. Every time they hear me use one of these fillers, I’ll tell them to call me out on it. Just maybe, it’ll get me to stop — and keep them from doing it too.

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