DEAR HARRIETTE: My son is a young adult looking for a job. He just finished college and hasn't found anything yet. When I talk to him, I notice that he has adopted some poor speech habits -- from school, I guess. He constantly says "like" in almost every sentence. I know that many young people do that, but I find it annoying. I wonder if this is distracting in his job interviews. How can I help my son to clean up his speech? -- LAZY LANGUAGE
DEAR LAZY LANGUAGE: Many people clutter their language these days with "like," "you know," "um," "I mean" and other variations on such things. These are common habits, and, yes, they are definitely noticeable in interviews as well as in general speech.
An exercise that I teach my clients who are learning how to speak publicly is to pay attention to their speaking and to notice when the habit pops up. I suggest that you buddy up with someone and make it fun -- so that it isn't embarrassing. Every time the perpetrator or the buddy notices it, they tap their nose to note that it happened. It's good to laugh, but also note the frequency. Notice what it feels like right before you say the thing. Then, invite yourself not to say it as soon as the feeling begins. Instead of saying the word or phrase, take a breath.
Further, become an expert at telling your own story and at owning the information needed for the interview you are in. When you are grounded in the knowledge of the subject at hand and have control of your breath, you have a much better chance of articulating your thoughts powerfully, clearly and without cluttered language.