Stuffing Habits

“It takes 21 days to change a habit,” according to Maxwell Maltz – and I think he’s about right, give or take a week or two.

But this past weekend we saw habit change at a high level happen in a couple of days at our Speakers’ Roundtable meeting – and there’s a great learning principle in this story.

Too many leaders, and speakers >talk about “stuff” , as in “The group liked my stuff,” or “I gave them my best stuff. We generically and lazily categorize specific concepts or details or material as “stuff.” So Patricia Fripp, renowned public speaker, coach and sister of King Crimson’s Robert Fripp, decided to put a learning principle in place and stop this ‘stuff’ at our three day meeting this past weekend. (She calls it a crime against credibility.) Every time anyone would say “stuff” the person would have to put a $1 in a paper bag.

What happened?

Well, one top speaker said, “Here’s $20, just deduct each one from my account.” What pain, fun, chagrin, and learning, as we went through the weekend. $42 was collected. And it would have probably been $142 if we all hadn’t become sensitized to the word “stuff.” (I cringe even now when writing it .)

When I got home my wife Dru Scott heard me say “the word,” and we’ve started another collection (so far $3, but it won’t go much higher – I’m too sensitized.)

And that’s the point with habits. Become aware, and you WILL begin to have a choice whether you use that word, or behavior, or way of holding yourself, or preparing – or whatever habit it might be.

Habits will make or break you – stuff the bad ones by putting them top of mind so you stop before you do it, whatever it is. (The most common verbal one is the dreaded non-word “um” or “ah” – same process applies to replace them with a pause.) But you’ve got to get feedback.

We recommend to all our clients the easiest way to change verbal speech habits is to get a digital audio recorder and record yourself in informal and formal settings (from telephone calls to meetings to speeches.) And of course video is even better – observed behavior changes.

Get feedback and it won’t take long for you to stuff your bad habits.

2 comments on “Stuffing Habits

  1. I’ve had a bee in my bonnet about ‘stuff’ for a long time. Used in business communication, it’s lazy. However, the life philosophy, ‘get an education, get a job and buy stuff’ is quite a powerfully negative. So, the word ‘stuff’ does carry some weight in the right context.
    Thanks for the post. I’ve been a King Crimson fan for years, but i never realised his sister was a renowned speaker and champion of clear communication.