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Mind the Gap in Your Communications

communication personal development
A man and a woman communicating about business with a gap between them.


By John Millen

In the United Kingdom, the subway or “tube” has audio messages and visual warnings that riders should “mind the gap” to be careful of the space between the train and the platform.

A person stepping into the gap might be seriously injured.

I find that the same is true as we communicate with one another: The gaps in our speech are where the dangerous, time-wasting or meaningless fillers go. The first step to losing the habits underlying these phrases is awareness.

So, I urge you, to check your own speech (and the speech of others) to learn to Mind the Gap in communications.

Here are six of the gap fillers that come to mind. I’m sure you can toss in many others:

1. The deadly preface: No offense, but...

Some people preface their sentences with, “no offense, but…” If you ever find yourself starting a sentence this way, I recommend you Stop. Right. There. Nothing good will follow. You already know that because you’ve announced it.

2. Don’t take this the wrong way

One of my clients, a senior leader in a Fortune 500, told me that early in her career a male boss whom she considered a mentor, said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but my wife said you look like you get dressed in the dark.” He laughed and went on to explain how his wife innocently meant my client could use a stylist, but it was too late. Trust was lost forever. You should know you’re in trouble the second your lips begin to speak this phrase. Please, mind the gap.

3. Like

There’s, like, a virus on, like, college and high school, like, campuses that’s, like, out of control and, like, spreading everywhere. It’s filling every gap in every sentence and seems unlikely to be stopped.

4. Right?

This generally falls at the end of a sentence, right? People develop this habit and often don’t know they’re saying it, right? They seem oblivious and it becomes annoying to their listeners, right? Mind the gap.

5. So

Many people have developed the habit of using “so” as their primary opening for sentences or transitions. Where did you go for vacation? “So, we went to…So, then we went to…” This is a filler that sometimes is also a kind of shorthand for “I’m about to give you a much more detailed answer than you were looking for.” Whenever I hear “so,” I inwardly flinch. And try hard not to glance at my watch.

6. You know

I would amplify on the pervasive use of this phrase, but, you know…

There are many other gap fillers, such as “um” and “sort of,” that need to be eradicated as well, as I wrote in 3 Best Tips to Control Your Filler Words.

I can’t think of any others, so I’m not going to just create filler here. That would be ironic.

But I bet you have examples of people who don’t mind the gaps in their communication.  

So, what, like, annoying words and, you know, phrases do you hear people drop into conversation or speeches? 


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