Getting Rid of the Giggles
If you’re old enough, you may recall when you had to send in your VHS tapes to America’s Funniest Home Videos through the mail. Back in the early days of the show, I remember seeing a video of a woman giving a speech where, at the end of every phrase, she giggled and said, “Oh, my.” Before too long, her audience caught on to the idiosyncrasy and started to giggle themselves. After a couple more phrases, the audience was guffawing, which just seemed to make her more nervous and caused her increase her idioms to a rapid-fire pace. The audience howled.
At the time, I was a student of public speaking, taking several classes during my college career. The video was hysterical. And sad. And a little scary. What was it that I did – without even knowing – that would throw my audience into hysterics? What was my “giggle”? Would anyone be kind enough to tell me so I didn’t become a laughing stock?
We all do it. Suddenly our mouth goes dry and we smack our lips, we begin to talk like a “Valley Girl” (if you remember VHS tapes, you remember Valley Girls) and we like “like” everything, we run every sentence together connected by “and” after “and” after “and,” or we incorporate into our verbiage the great nemesis of public speaking… the dreaded “um.” Even the best can sometimes throw in a little “so,” when headed into the final stretch. It’s just hard sometimes to shut it down.
So how do we? How do we stop the giggles, the “oh, mys,” the lip-smacking, tongue-twisting irritations that just won’t leave us alone?
It starts with awareness and acknowledgement. These are two crucial pieces when it comes to calling out our own foibles.
The easiest way to bring awareness is by watching ourselves on video. It’s painful. Very. Painful. You have to get past the “I don’t really look like that, do I?” feeling and focus in on what your “giggle” is. It’s there, I guarantee it.
If a video’s just too painful, employ the services of a talented speaker (and preferably trusted friend), perhaps an experienced Toastmaster, who can laugh at your giggles or take a drink every time you say “Um.”
Once your giggle is revealed to you, you’ll never miss it again – in yourself or anyone else.
It’s a bit embarrassing, but I feel a need to stop here and confess my own giggle. I was team-teaching a course to a group of about ten students. In my yearning to know that my message was getting across, I began to say, “Right?” I needed some positive affirmation from my learners. So initially, I got some head nods. I guess I liked it, because I proceeded to “Right” myself through the rest of class, never even realizing the word was coming through my lips.
Thankfully, my colleague pulled me aside during a break and said, “What’s with the ‘rights’?” That was the end of the “Rights” for me. I can’t say I never say it, but I sure do hear the darned thing when it pops out. That was my giggle. At least for that day.
Hurray! You’ve found your giggle. So now you won’t do it ANY MORE. Phew! That’s a relief. If it were only that easy… Don’t get me wrong – Awareness is a HUGE step. You can’t fix the problem if you don’t know it’s there, but what do you do when, in the middle of your presentation, this humongous, gigantanormous UMMMMM begins to form in your throat?
What I tell my learners is, “Stop.” The extra second of silence your audience hears while you stifle the impulse will not be noticed. (In fact, silence can be your friend.) So, when the “Um” comes, acknowledge it (figuratively, not literally) and let it go. If it does slip out, note it, don’t beat yourself up, and move on.
I’m sure I have many giggles left in me. I won’t be offended if you point them out (maybe a little embarrassed). But it doesn’t just stop at giggles either. There are wiggles too, but that’s a topic for another day.
What’s the worst giggle you’ve ever had – or witnessed?