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How To, you know, Avoid, um, Verbal Ticks

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Caroline Kennedy

Kennedy at the DNC Paul J. Richards AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Paul J. Richards AFP/Getty Images

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Click above to listen to my latest podcast on verbal ticks. I was inspired to look into this topic by Caroline Kennedy's not so eloquent interviews recently. For tips on how to have clearer speaking habits, I spoke with Jana Barnhill, the International President of Toastmasters International, an organization that helps people become better public speakers and leaders.

According to Barnhill, to get rid of verbal ticks, or "garbage words" as she likes to call them, you have to become more cognizant of what you're saying. You might try having a friend listen and record how many times you say "like," "um," "ah," and "you know." Kind of like this:

Barnill told me the next step is to practice, practice, practice. You can also try speaking more slowly and pausing periodically which she says "can be very powerful and very effective in a speech." I have caught myself uttering "you know" more than I should when talking, too. I've found a way to practice at home. By reading books out loud to my daughter I've become a more deliberate talker, and hopefully this has, you know, cleaned up my speech a little.

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