One of my shortcomings is how I express myself to others. At times, I may talk too quickly – making myself difficult to understand, and also causing myself to feel nervous when I speak. I also tend to move parts of my body too much when I speak, which can detract from what I want to say. Another thing I get reminded about quite often is my tendency to fill my speech with “um”s, especially when I respond to people.
My turning point was in Pretoria, where Violin flashed her “public personal coaching” skills. Each person had to decide on an individualized “homework” assignment. The homework was a restriction or condition designed to help the person overcome bad habits. Mine was to simply stop littering my speech with “ums” and “ahs” – which proved to be more challenging than it sounded. So why was Violin’s arrangement effective? Each person had to publicly announce his or her homework assignment, so everyone else was aware of it. Everyone had to take part in reminding one another if the restriction was violated. There was even a financial consequence where you had to pay anywhere from 1 to 10 South African rand to whoever caught you breaking your restriction. All of this was incentive enough for me to work as hard as I could stop saying those “ums” and “ahs”. I feel like the very arrangement of a public homework assignment was, by itself, a turning point for me.
In the beginning, it was a bit of a challenge to carry out my assignment, as I’d been speaking that way for many years. But through the diligent reminders of brothers and sisters, and my own efforts, I was able to whittle away at this habit. By midway through the trip, I had gone from very frequent usage of filler words to nearly eliminating this habit entirely. Now I feel more confident when I speak, and I don’t hesitate as much. I can process my own thoughts more quickly. I’m slightly more “normal” in interacting with others now. This improvement has given me the confidence to work on fixing other parts of my expression now.