This week’s exercise was to become aware of your use of filler words, such as um, er, ah, etc, and eliminate them from your speech.
I pretty much failed at this one. A constant challenge with doing mindfulness exercises is the simple act of remembering to do them in the first place. This was one that it was almost impossible for me to remember to do. I thought of it often enough when I was doing the laundry, or driving somewhere, or taking the dogs out – basically in any situation when I was not going to be talking any time soon. And then I would forget about it the next time I was speaking. Jan suggests recruiting your kids or a friend to help you and point out whenever you use a filler word. I could have asked David, but never got around to it. So this week was a bit of a bust.
I did remember to do it one time when I had to call the doctor’s office. And wow, it was hard! Afterwards I felt like the lady must have thought there was something wrong with me – I managed not to use filler words most of the time (I think) but instead I just had these odd pauses in my speech where I normally would have used them. It sounded stilted and uncomfortable. Of course, maybe she didn’t notice anything at all and I just noticed because I was so conscious of it.
That consciousness of our speech is one of the lessons Jan draws. Most of the time when we speak it is so habitual and second nature that we don’t even notice the filler words. Hence my “I think” above – even when I was trying to be aware of them, I may have used some and not even noticed. Jan says that at her monastery they will tape each other and play it back and even when the speaker was trying to be aware, they end up using filler words that they don’t even realized they used. In order to change habits that are as ingrained as this one, we must bring constant attention to our efforts. Simply hoping for a change won’t be enough.
This week’s exercise is:
“Appreciate your hands: When your hands are busy, watch them as though they belong to a stranger. Also look at them when they are still.”