January 31, 2012 fm

Good Bye, Un Poco & Co.

Filler words – they penetrate our languages. In the English language filler words include conjunctions like… and, but, so, well. In German the same situation… und, aber, so, nun. In Spanish the same situation… y, pero, así, pues.

Filler words are neutral, but add no rhetorical value to what you say. Less is more is a golden rule in public speaking. You will increase the rhetorical impact of your speeches and presentations if you erase unnecessary filler words.

Apart from bugging fillers, a new category of message diminishing expressions have captured my attention. I call them downsizers.

Downsizers are words that ruthlessly gnaw on your message. The irony is that you use them voluntarily – without any need at all.

Downsizers are words like… maybe, slight/slightly, a little bit, try, believe, think, potential/potentially, possible/possibly and conditional phrases like… would, could, should. All these expressions have in common that they downsize your message.


Observe the following pairs of sentences and ask yourself, which one of them has more impact – a or b?

a) We try to accomplish our objectives this year.

b) We will accomplish our objectives this year.

a) We are slightly proud of what we’ve achieved in just 12 months. 

b) We are proud of what we’ve achieved in just 12 months.

a) I believe this market environment will change.

b) This market environment will change.

a) We will possibly turn the opportunities into tangible results.

b) We will turn the opportunities into tangible results.

a) Our company should expand into new areas.

b) The right thing for our company to do is expand into new areas.


Downsizers are all over the place. We use downsizers all the time.

In Spanish, the most violent downsizer of all downsizers is called “un poco” (a little bit). My Spanish friends use un poco literally in every second phrase.

They will say, for instance, “Hoy vamos a hablar un poco del mercado de móviles en España.” (Today, we will talk a little bit about the market for cell phones in Spain.)

Everything in Spain is un poco. The market growth, the academic career, the level of team motivation. Un poco, un poco, un poco.

Public speaking is about authority, credibility, conviction, charisma. Downsizers like “un poco” – whatever language you speak – throw them over board. Don’t let them gnaw on your pillar of ethos.

Good bye, Un Poco & Co.

Welcome to more authority, more message, more persuasiveness.

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