Mar 012016
 

We all have bad habits. In some cases, behaviors that others perceive as “bad” are not even noticed by the person engaging in the bad habit. We often hesitate to confront others on their bad habits for fear of offending. Sadly, this can result in the individual continuing the bad habit. The following is a short account of a man who chose to identify a bad habit of mine which led to me at least becoming aware of it, and to largely overcome it.

When I was in college at the University of Montana, a fellow lived on my dorm room floor named Jim Strain. At one point he was engaged to a woman named Joan Daly. She was serious about changing her name upon marriage to Joan Daly-Strain. Sadly, this happy state of affairs did not come to pass. I had various adventures with Jim, including crayfish fishing and watching one of the first World Cup soccer match finals broadcast on TV.

One night I walked downtown to the bars, either with the intention of meeting Jim, or simply to hang out and drink beer. I never cared for the Stockman’s Bar, as it was frequented by jocks who played poker. It had a violent vibe that always intimidated me, and made me genuinely frightened for my physical safety. I believe their motto was “Liquor up front, poker in the rear.” But for whatever reason, that night I entered “Stocks” and proceeded to chat with Jim Strain.

Jim was belly-up to the bar, chatting with an older man, whom I was introduced to. As I recall, the older man was a professor of economics at the U of M. I began to recount a story to Jim. Periodically throughout my monologue, the econ prof would interrupt me with a strange verbal interjection: “DING!”

This happened several times, and eventually I stopped my monologue. Jim began to chuckle at my confusion. Finally Jim enlightened me as to what was going on. “Matt, every time you say “you know” he’s saying “DING!”

Most people have interjections such as “you know” and “like” periodically peppered throughout their speech. These days I find myself interjecting “literally” at unnecessary points. Sadly, verbal interjections are one of those bad habits that can tend to creep back into one’s speech if one doesn’t maintain a certain verbal vigilance.

So step number one: Be aware of your own speech! It’s frightfully unlikely you will run into a freaky econ prof who will raise your consciousness in such a goofy way. Polite adults don’t usually do such things. Step two: Cut it out! Practice paying attention to what you ACTUALLY say. Articulate, thoughtful speech is a virtue, and one not commonly applauded these days. Eschew verbal “filler phrases” such as “you know” and “like” which are analogous to nervous energy discharges such as needlessly pushing eyeglasses further up one’s nose.

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