Michael Vick, the football star who served time for leading a dogfighting ring, has bigger problems right now than to worry about giving good sound bytes. But his verbal crutch overuse on “60 Minutes” on Aug. 16 just rubs me the wrong way.
As an interviewer, I’ve become acutely aware of catchphrases and mental hiccups such as “you know.” I’ve come to expect them during interviews. In fact, I’ve read that a nice sprinkling of ums makes a person sound more human (people say that about President Obama) and that even telemarketers use them deliberately during their calls to sound more approachable. Then there’s Vick.
Vick used “you know” 24 TIMES during what was just a few minutes of actual speaking time. (Click here to watch it yourself.) Here’s the best one:
“And, YOU KNOW, it’s no way of, YOU KNOW, explaining, YOU KNOW, the hurt and the guilt that I felt.”
Multiple uses in one sentence, especially in one train of thought, are distracting, and don’t reflect well on the speaker. Professional athletes are among the biggest violators, and, sadly, you know, I think we’ve all just gotten used to it.
Fixing it really doesn’t take much effort. In our biweekly Toastmasters meetings, we use a dog training clicker to click after each ah, um or other annoying yet all-to-common speech tic to disrupt the pattern and hopefully help the speaker correct it. The click is uncomfortable, and you’re going to want to do anything you can to avoid it. Thus, you stop saying “um.” It really works.
Setting aside judgment on whether he’s sorry for what he’s done or whether he should be allowed back into the NFL, I think we’d all be more likely to sympathize if he cleaned up his act. Oratorically, that is.