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How to Stop Using a Crutch Word

crutches Merriam – Webster knows a little something about words. They just released the word of the year for 2008 … beg.

No, wait a minute, that’s our word for their word! Their word is … bailout.

Oxford University also recently released their own list – the most irritating phrases of 2008.



Among them:

  • "24/7" finished ninth on the list. Can we add 365 to it?
  • "With all due respect" came in fifth. It made us think of one that irritates us. Why do people say, “I’m not trying to be rude” when they are getting ready to say something rude?
  • And the phrase that the wonderful people at Oxford found most irritating – “at the end of the day.”


marylynnI love The Apprentice, but have you ever noticed how many contestants use that phrase over and over again?



georgeI think I just figured out my New Year’s Resolution for 2009. I’m going to start using the phrase, “at the beginning of the day” because I’m an optimist!


These phrases are crutches gone mainstream. They made us think about our own crutches.


georgeI say “that’s right” a lot which is similar to “absolutely” which finished sixth on the Oxford list.



marylynnI find myself saying “you know” more often than I would like. That’s definitely my crutch.


Getting off crutches

  • Record yourself. In order to stop using crutch words, you have to become aware of them. Record yourself and listen to the words you’re using as a crutch.
  • Create substitutes. Come up with two or three alternates to the word or phrase you use over and over. When you feel yourself ready to rely on your crutch, or you know you’ve already said it, force yourself to use a different word or phrase.

So let’s look at “you know.” Why not lead with …

“You’re probably aware of this.”
“You may find this interesting.”
“I bet you can relate to this.”

Don’t those phrases sound better if you’re going to use one?

“That’s right” could be “Good point” or “You’re dead on.”

  • Pause to think. We won’t speak for you, but sometimes when we talk, our mouths seem to get ahead of our brains! So we lean on our crutches to fill the space. That’s because, as humans, we’re uncomfortable with … silence.

There’s no reason to be. A second of silence gives you time to fully digest what has been said. It actually improves communication.

What’s your crutch? What alternatives could you use? And, while we’re at it, what word or phrase drives you crazy?


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Are They Hearing What You Are Saying?

On the show, George recalled a teacher who made him write a report on what he wanted to be when he grew up. This was junior high; George didn’t know what he wanted to be. Maybe a major league baseball player?

So he did his report on being a bricklayer. His dad was a bricklayer, with his own business. When his teacher saw the title of his report, she said, “You mean with your brain, you’re going to be a bricklayer?”

George could have taken that comment as an insult about his dad. But his dad was good with his hands and his head. He said he did initially think that he wouldn’t get a good grade. But over time, her comment resonated with him. It helped him, as a young person, be more confident in his mental ability.

4 ways to get a message across
The statement and the delivery are both important parts of communicating a message. You can’t necessarily control what your message is, but you can control how you deliver it.

#1 – Negative statement, negative delivery
Without question, this is the worst way to communicate a message. If someone says something negative to you, in a negative way, they lose a lot. You’re not going to feel better. The relationship won’t be enhanced. You may get defensive or even angry.

"Speak when you are angry – and you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret.”
Dr. Laurence Peter

#2 – Negative statement, positive delivery

Sometimes the message isn’t positive, but we still need to get the message across. How you say it becomes incredibly important. A good example might be Donald Trump on The Apprentice. He’s said things like, “I love you; I think you’re a great guy, but you’re fired.”

Negative messages have to be delivered. However, you can choose to frame them in a positive way.

#3 – Positive statement, negative delivery
You risk diminishing the real message you’re trying to get across when you have negative overtures. George took away a positive from his teacher’s comment, but he could have just been insulted. 

#4 – Positive statement, positive delivery
Obviously, this is how you want to frame as much of your communication as you possibly can. This draws people to you.

How you respond to messages
You also can control how you respond to other people’s messages, no matter how they deliver it. Let’s take the worst one. Someone may hit you with a negative statement and deliver it in a negative way.

Pause before you respond. The conversation can go into a tailspin and be completely unproductive or you may be able to turn it around with the right response.

And we can be inspired, no matter what the message is or how it’s delivered. We have a friend who remembers being told that he was too small to make the high school football team. That “negative, negative” inspired him to go for it. Not only did he make the team, but he was a starter!


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(Image by danzo08)