In last week's issue, we began an exploration of embolalia — the filler we use in everyday speech, to help us gain time to gather our thoughts, or to soften our tone. We focused on the simplest forms — "uh," "um," "er," and so on, and short phrases such as "kind of" and "stuff like that." This time we turn our attention to forms of embolalia so complex that we don't recognize them as filler, even though they contribute nothing to the speaker's message.
The simplest of these are introductory embolalia, which tend to appear at the beginning of the address. They include "actually," "basically," "anyway," "honestly," "seriously," and "well." President Reagan was known for his use of "well." Some of these also have a softening effect, but they convey other messages, too. For instance, "actually," can be condescending, "seriously" can close a humorous interlude, and "anyway" can be a means of rejecting contradiction.
The real experts in using embolalia can make them sound formal, powerful, and valuable, even when they're nothing more than high-falutin' "ums." In this category, President Nixon was known for "Let me say this about that." Examples:
- You have to understand
- That's a great question; Excellent question
- Ah, but there's a hitch
- You might think so, but…
- It's not The real experts in using embolalia
can make them sound formal,
powerful, and valuable, even
when they're nothing more
than high-falutin' "ums"that simple
- On the one hand; On the other hand
- Needless to say; It goes without saying
- Let me be (perfectly) clear
- Let me say this (about that)
- I just want to say (this)
- All I'm saying is (this)
- I would say this
- I would (will) tell you that (something)
- I have to say; I must say
- Let me just make a couple of points
- Could I just mention one other thing
- That's a fascinating point
- The bottom line is
- At the end of the day
- One of the problems was (is)
- My own view is
- The fact (truth) is that
The most complex embolalia are rarely noticed, even though they're common in everyday conversation. About 30 minutes of news programming on U.S. television yielded these examples:
- The general problem we seem to be having is
- There are three reasons (or two or whatever)
- You might think so at first, but if you give it a little thought you realize that something much more complicated is going on
- I believed that myself when I first looked into this matter
- We can rule out that possibility easily, for three reasons
- Nothing could be further from the truth
- Many people do subscribe to that thesis, but there is little hard data to support it. Let me explain.
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
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What's stopping us?
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- Workplace boredom can result from poor choices by the person who's bored. More often boredom comes from
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- How to Get Out of Firefighting Mode: I
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We move from fire to fire, putting out flames. How can we end the madness?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 23: Power Distance and Teams
- One of the attributes of team cultures is something called power distance, which is a measure of the overall comfort people have with inequality in the distribution of power. Power distance can determine how well a team performs when executing high-risk projects. Available here and by RSS on October 23.
- And on October 30: Power Distance and Risk
- Managing or responding to project risks is much easier when team culture encourages people to report problems and question any plans they have reason to doubt. Here are five examples that show how such encouragement helps to manage risk. Available here and by RSS on October 30.
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- The Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Leadership
On 14 December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough. But to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. We'll use the history of this event to explore lessons in leadership and its application to organizational efforts. A fascinating and refreshing look at leadership from the vantage point of history. Read more about this program.
Here's a date for this program:
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio
44017: November 7,
Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute.
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio 44017: November 7, Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.