Throw Away Your Verbal Crutches

Um, so ya know what I’d like to discuss today is, um, well, ya know.

That! Right there! That is what we are going to look at today – our verbal crutches.

We all have them and they are super annoying—not only annoying to ourselves, but to others as well.

Most of the time we don’t even realize we are doing it. Wanna find out if you use crutches? Record your next conversation with someone and then roll the tape. You’ll probably be amazed and maybe even disgusted. I know I was when I listened to a recording just last week.

I could not believe how many times I had said, “ya know,” in just two minutes of conversation. I was appalled and really disappointed.

Don’t worry, I didn’t beat myself up too much about it. Although I did share this self-discovery with a couple of people, so I did actually relive the horror a few times more than was necessary, and here I am again retelling my story, so….


If you’re anything like me, you probably want to rid yourself of your verbal crutches so you sound more professional, more confident, and more competent. So if I’m talking to you, let’s get to it.

There are three simple ways to remove (or at least reduce) your dependency on “uhs”, “ums”, and “ya knows.”

Tip #1: Listen for your crutches in your own speech and in others’. This will be painful at first. Once you know what your crutch words are, start to carefully listen to the way you converse with others. Listen to both sides of the conversation—your side and their side. You’ll be amazed at how often other people do it too. And now that you’re paying attention, you’re going to see it everywhere.

Get used to censoring yourself when it happens. Just mentally call yourself out right then and there.

Oops, I   did it again.

But it’s ok, it’s totally common, and you are taking control and taking action. Take pride in your self-awareness and vow to be more thoughtful throughout the balance of the conversation.

Tip #2: Slow down. Another reason you are using so many verbal crutches is because you are trying to fill the silence. But why? Most likely you want to come across as quick, smart, and responsive. And because of this, you want to answer right away, so it looks like you had the answer all along.

That might work some of the time, but it’s not going to work all of the time. What does work all the time is slowing down your speech to slow down your thoughts. You’re not going to be able to slow your thoughts because they just come when they want as fast as they want. What you can control is the rate of speed you release your thoughts into words and sentences.

Tip #3: Take a breath. One of the other reasons you end up relying on your verbal crutches is that you are ready to speak, but you’re not really sure what to say. Well, stop jumping the gun. Just wait until your thoughts are there and then add to the conversation.

When in conversation, wait until the other person has completed their thought and then take a full breath. No hurry, just a single breath. Once done, express yourself in a thoughtful manner.

This actually accomplishes two things.

  1. It gives you a moment to collect your thoughts and respond thoughtfully and coherently.
  2. It lets the other person know (or at least think) you have considered their part of the conversation and you’re not just blurting out whatever you’ve been waiting to say.

In fact, there is a third, maybe even greater benefit to taking a breath before you speak. Silence promotes anticipation. When you take a moment to reflect on what you want to say, the other person will anticipate that you are about to say something really smart, because you are formulating a quality idea.

It builds a bit of suspense and they can’t wait to hear the imminent wave of wisdom you are about to impart.

Ok, maybe it’s not all that, but there is some psychological truth to this premise. We tend to think people are smarter, wiser, more thoughtful when they take a moment to think before they speak.

It doesn’t really matter if you are thinking or not in that moment, just pause before you speak to create the illusion of thoughtfulness.

In time, and with a lot of practice, you will find that you’ll form smarter, wiser, more thoughtful responses because you are listening more carefully, and so your reply will be more relevant and complementary to the conversation and to the other person.

Your conversations will be richer, more persuasive, and dare I say, even more enjoyable.

You’ll find that by slowing down and taking a breath you won’t be filling space with garbage words nearly as much as you did just last week.

At first it will be super hard to get yourself to slow down and hold your tongue for just a beat, but you’ll get there.

Be thoughtful of your speaking partner, be mindful of the words you want to use, and be grateful to throw away those verbal crutches.

Your Mindful Moment:

Take a breath, find the words, then speak your mind.

Published by


Jimmy Glenos is a Work/Life Performance Coach. He helps people achieve their biggest dreams, reach their highest energy, and attain total work/life fulfillment. With over 30 years of hospitality and health care experience, Jimmy brings deep knowledge and insight to help people lead at work and succeed in life.

Leave a Reply