Have you ever listened to a speaker whose message was diluted or lost in verbal graffiti? Is it only an exhausted athlete being interviewed after a victory who is guilty of saying you know or um again and again and strengthening this habit? Or, could it be a teenager who says “like” anywhere in a sentence? Maybe it was a well known moderator who should know better. Were you distracted? What is verbal graffiti anyway?
I believe, and this is my opinion, that verbal graffiti is defined as all the extra words and sounds that we make when we are speaking. For example, there is nothing wrong with the word “like”. However, when someone says, “It was like we were like on a date and someone like said to us like what are you kids doing here? We were like so embarrassed.” You get the idea. Other common examples are “you know”, “uh or um”, and so on. Verbal graffiti includes connecting sentences again and again with the word “and”, ending sentences with “so”, and starting most sentences with “well” or “now”, or addressing the audience as “you guys”. The list goes on and on.
What causes this habit and what can make it disappear? I think habits such as this develop over time, when we are nervous, self conscious, or ill prepared to answer questions or speak in public. The thing is, we don’t usually notice this practice in ourselves. When we do notice or it is called to our attention, we can work to overcome the habit. Again, however, this takes time and diligent attention to it. Some people will tell you to join an organization such as Toastmasters because “They will make your you knows and ums go away.” That is not true. Toastmasters and the friendly environment you experience will call your attention to what you are doing. You will make it go away yourself. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.
Rusty’s previous post spoke about the value of Toastmasters. We are starting a specialized club in Vancouver, Washington, specifically designed to meet the needs of entrepreneurs and small business owners. It will meet the second and fourth Tuesday evenings, after business hours. Check out the details in Rusty’s blogpost. We hope you will join us to develop and celebrate your communication skills. If you are already an experienced speaker, please consider joining us to serve as a mentor.