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.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I live in the city but near an empty lot. Whenever the weather changes, mice come into my apartment. It is so annoying. I do not leave food out. My house is clean, but like clockwork, they get in somehow. I feel confident that they will be coming again soon, as the seasons have already begun to change. My kids have invited friends to sleep over, and I'm worried that a mouse might show itself in the night. Should I cancel the play date? -- MOUSE HOUSE
DEAR MOUSE HOUSE: You may want to hire an exterminator to come in, assess your rodent problem and help you set up a system for catching them. Do that first, so that you can get a handle on how to catch the mice. These animals are smart and do adapt to the situation, so having professional help is a wise way to rid yourself of them.
As far as the sleepover goes, go ahead and make the arrangements. Be sure that no poison or traps are accessible to the children. Make sure they do not leave any food out. If a mouse appears, it will run away immediately, so they cannot be hurt by it. Just be sure that the children are nowhere near poison.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)