How we speak is almost as important as what we say and when we say it. Communication at its core is about sharing information, getting the others of our community to feel, see, or think what we are feeling, seeing, or thinking. It is through this substantive process of sharing our ideas that we as a species have been able to accomplish such amazing technological and scientific feats. No one accomplishment in our history has ever been completed by one person; it has always been performed by groups, even if the ideas came from a single being.
However, it is quite easy to speak with the equivalent of popcorn phrases: tasty, but empty. These phrases slip into our language all the time. Words like um or uh. They make for a good sound when you don’t know what to say, but cutting down on those fillers creates in the mind of the listener or reader a sense that you know what you’re talking about. Our brains are hardwired for language, as one article by Lera Boroditsky shows, and by taking time to trim your words like fat from a roast, you can create a more palatable string of thought for others to take in.
Language has not come easy to me. I have dyslexia, a condition of the mind that affects how I interpret information. After years of practice, I’ve turned this into a strength, allowing me to see things differently, think outside the box if you will. While I was serving a full-time proselyting mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was tasked with speaking with many people on a daily basis. As a missionary, you always travel with a companion, another missionary. And this granted me a chance to see how other people communicated, and how people responded to that communication. Early on, I was awkward. Afterall, I was only 19, fresh out of highschool, and had never been much of a socialite, let alone someone who sought out opportunities to share my thoughts with others on the regular. There were growing pains.
But as time progressed, I began to see how certain words worked better for sharing what I meant to say, while others did not. And this is where I discovered the one phrase that if you never say it, you automatically will sound smarter, and more aware of any topic you are speaking on. The phrase is, “all these different things.” It’s a phrase used most often when you are listing out a number of connected ideas. By dropping this phrase, you change a list of ideas from vague, to comprehensive. You will sound like you are an authority, every time, simply by leaving out this phrase as you share your words with others.
Sometimes you may be tempted to say “all these different things,” rather than making a defined list of what things you mean. It’s easy to avoid being definitive. However, by being specific and naming the things you mean and those things only, you create a setting where you are now in control of your narrative. “All these different things” leaves room for your listener to add to your list. Leaving the phrase out sets a start and ending point for your thought. You set the tone, the parameters, and doing so makes you sound authoritative, and decisive.
Dropping this phrase is a great place to start if you want to clean up your language skills. This doesn’t mean that you are finished once you’ve done so, though. There are more phrases and words that are cluttering your vocabluary, and if you are serious about improving your communication skills, I suggest you do more research into the field of linguistics. A good place to start would be this article by Matthew McCreary.
Take some time to refine what you say. Don’t rely on platitudes to get your point across; they are too vague for others to truly grasp what you mean. There are better ways to speak and write, and in my experience, one of the best paths to being better with your words revolves around dropping “all these different things.” You don’t need it.