If the ‘Ah’-counter bell at Toastmasters International could speak, it would explain in precise words what it’s shrill ring really (not a filler word!) means…
Every time I observe my fellow toastmasters use this annoying device to learn how to NOT say fillers, I recall a Confucius parable about a young disciple searching for a guru’s advice on how to revile his “third eye”. The guru enlightened him: “Do not think about white like snow monkeys!” “That’s simple? – the young man asked surprisingly – But I have never thought about white monkeys!” “Continue doing so!” – the guru replied.
Simple? May be so, but from that moment on, all that man could do was thinking about white monkeys. Not thinking about them became his greatest lifelong challenge! Why? Because every time he thought of NOT thinking about them, he would begin thinking exactly about these creatures…
Are you aware that thinking of how to do and how not to do something leads us to the same results? We energize our thoughts with our will power, which we direct to one thought at a time in our mind with our focused beam of attention in the same way we spotlight one object at a time in a dark room with a beam of a flash light. Whether we intend to embrace or dismiss this though, the effect is the same: we can execute with our body muscles only what we just saw in our mind. Every time we think of not saying ‘Ahs’, we do exactly the opposite. We open our mouth and sound out what we just saw, or to be precise, heard in our mind: “Ahhh!”
No doubt about it, the ‘Ah’-counter bell is a very powerful awareness tool. It tells us something – just like any other indicator of a consequence of our mistake does. For example,
* an ‘F’-grade on a test advises a student: “You should have studied more diligently for this test!”
* a honking car shouts at a pedestrian: “You should have crossed the road on a crosswalk!”
* a dent on a car complains to a driver: “You should have watched the road and noticed that tree you hit with your car!”
* So, what’s the precise message of the ‘Ah’-counter bell – so loud, but sounding foreign to many of us to understand? Let’s listen to its penetrating voice as it enlightens an irrational and therefore, irrational, speaker: “Hey! You should have taken your time to prepare and then, say the word that you really wanted to say!”
If the ‘Ah’-counter bell could speak, it would explain that no matter what it is, ‘Ah’, ‘Like’, ‘Actually’, ‘To be honest’, ‘You know’… etc., there is always one precise reason for every speech filler: it is a LACK OF PREPARATION TIME prior to saying a word that we intended to say.
It would remind that every word we say, including fillers, is a LEARNED (at some point of our life!) act of creation in the present moment! No words even exist as real vibrations of our voice until we create them: one at a time, in a sequence, with the movements of our brainless tongue, which on its own is just a piece of flesh – similar to the animal tongues they sell in the grocery stores…. On its own, our tongue can only lay flat in our mouth motionless and wait patiently for us: “What would you wish of me, Master? I am waiting for your commands. Please, give me precise instructions from your mind. What word precisely would you like me to execute for you?”
It is time we allow Mr. ‘Ah’-counter rest in peace and do our best to always give ourselves TIME to choose exactly what word we want to say and then, endeavor to say it in the most precise way.
I recommend we substitute many mental programs we have “do not thing about white monkeys” with the naturally-rational one: “Always give yourself TIME to choose precisely what monkey you want to think about and then, endeavor to present it to the world precisely!”
Let’s be rational and enjoy our Etalon speech and our Etalon life!