Crutch words, interrupting, filler comments, and more. Dr. Andrea Wojnicki shares 10 unique communication insights after hosting 60 Talk About Talk podcast episodes. 


  • 10 Communication Insights – Summary

  • References & Links

  • Transcript


10 COMMUNICATION INSIGHTS: What I Learned from ? Podcasting


    • Crutch words are unnecessary words that we use repeatedly, like “umm” or “so”…
    • Crutch words are distracting and annoying.
    • Determine what your crutch words are by listening to yourself or by asking others. Then make a conscious effort to stop using them.

    • We don’t just mirror body language. We also mirror other’s tone and words.
    • It’s flattering to be mirrored.

    • We use contractions for speaking and full words for writing.
    • Using only full words (no contractions) in verbal communication is an indication that someone’s reading a written script. If you’re writing a speech, use contractions.

  • Of course it’s rude to talk over someone. If you need to interject, use body language to let them know.
  • This works well when conducting interviews or participating in video-conference (Zoom) calls.

    • These are the unnecessary comments we hear in interviews, such as “how are you?” or “that’s a great question.”
    • As interviewers, we can re-direct the filler question, “how are you?” with: “I’m great thanks, and I’m curious to hear your take on [[interview topic]].”

    • Take a breath before you answer a question in an interview. This will give you time to think about your answer. It will also make your voice sound better.
    • Project with your voice on the exhale.

    • People are probably more willing to share their expertise with you than you think. Almost 100% of the talented and busy people I invited to be guests on the Talk About Talk podcast enthusiastically said yes. Just ask!

    • Of course network effects are impactful. This is clearly illustrated in terms of downloads for podcast episodes that are shared beyond the “Talk About Talk” network.
    • The global network of podcasters is surprisingly supportive (and appreciated)!

    • Audiences and readers appreciate a logical flow, particularly a structure that includes a concluding summary – as in: “tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, tell ‘em, then tell ‘em what you told them.”
    • Don’t worry about being repetitive. (I learned this the hard way!)

    • Listening to or watching yourself is probably the most efficient and effective way to improve your communication skills.
    • It’s not fun, but record yourself in a meeting, an interview, or a presentation and then listen to or watch yourself later.


Resources & Recommendations

Talk About Talk Episodes Referenced

Dr. Andrea Wojnicki

TRANSCRIPT – Crutch words and other insights

Hey there – I’m your communication coach, Dr. Andrea Wojnicki (please call me Andrea!) Welcome to Talk About Talk.

Talk About Talk is the communication skills focused podcast for life-long learners and folks who are seeking to get noticed and advance their careers.  Does that sound like you?  Well, you’re in the right place! Sure, some people make communication skills look easy.  But it’s not easy.  It takes practice and it takes know-how. 


Talk About Talk gives you the know-how on things like storytelling, communicating with confidence, and networking. 


Today’s episode is a bit different. We’re going to focus on general communication skills.  I’m going to share with you 10 things that I learned only because of my experience in producing these podcasts.  After 60 episodes, I’ve learned SO MUCH.  It’s crazy how much I’ve learned.


To be honest with you, a few months ago I was feeling quite proud when I hit 50 episodes with Talk About Talk. I wanted to do something to commemorate that milestone.  So I opened a new document and I started listing the communication skills that I learned from podcasting. And here we are.


This is a list of 10 communication insights that I think are, well, really, really cool. Not just for podcasters.  For everyone who wants to up their communication skills.

  • A few of these insights are things that I may have read or heard before, but they didn’t really resonate until I started podcasting. 
  • Others are things I never would’ve known if I hadn’t started podcasting.
  • ALL of them are things that are relevant beyond podcasting. I promise you’ll learn something helpful here.



Do you know what a crutch word is?  You can probably guess. It’s a word that you use repeatedly to fill silence, or to help you gather your thoughts, or just generally out of habit.  Sounds like “UMM” or “AHH”  are common crutch words in verbal communication.


But crutch words aren’t just in verbal, spoken communication.  Fiction and non-fiction writers also use crutch words sometimes – to their detriment.


So real words like “well” or “certainly” or “absolutely” or “literally” can also be crutch words.  Have you noticed how many people say “literally” lately?  Crutch words can also be phrases like “for what it’s worth” or jargon like “outside the box.”


Crutch words are usually unnecessary.  Basically they’re like filler. That’s not good, right?  But even worse,  crutch words can be very annoying, especially when we repeat them frequently.  We need to avoid using crutch words.


Here’s the thing with me and crutch words.  Mine change with every episode.  Because I do all of my own editing for these talkabouttalk podcasts, my own crutch words become very apparent to me very quickly.  So I make a conscious effort to avoid them.  But then you know what happens?  I have a new crutch word for every episode.  Aye.


So that’s the first communication insight I learned from podcasting.  Crutch words.  Avoid them.  They’re unnecessary and they’re annoying. Got it?




More than half of the Talk About Talk podcast episodes to date have been interviews.  When I edit the interviews, I notice that I mirror the interviewee.  And they mirror me. They mirror my crutch words.  I’ve heard that mirroring people’s body language is a good thing to do if you want them to like you.  This is different though.  This is a podcast.  We can’t hear body language. I’m talking about mirroring tone, mirroring cadence, and mirroring language. 


SO tone.  Like happy or sad or serious or funny.  Tone is related to body language.  You know, if someone leans in, you lean in. If they sit up straight, so do you.  Well, when the person is smiling and funny, I find myself smiling and (maybe) even trying to crack a joke.  Of if they’re monotone, I might mirror that. It’s also language.  If one person uses formal language, the other person might do the same.  And even words.  If someone uses a unique word, you might use that same word.


Generally mirroring is a good thing.  It flatters the other person  Have you ever used a unique or uncommon word in a conversation, and then the other person uses the same word?  I’ve become a lot ,ore conscious of this now.  It flatters the person who said it first.  It tells them not only that you’re listening, but also that you somehow concur with their words.


I shard this insight recently with someone who works in sales and he said “you know what, your right! I’m going to us that!”





This is a really interesting one.  Have you ever been listening to someone on a podcast or on the radio and you can easily tell that they’re reading?  I t sounds unnatural somehow, you know what I mean?  Maybe because they aren’t pausing at the right time or MAYBE it’s because they aren’t using contractions.  When we write, we don’t use a lot of contractions.  We write DO NOT or YOU WILL or CAN NOT.  But we speak with contractions.  We may write DO NOT, but we say DON’T.  We write YOU WILL, but we say YOU’LL.  We write CAN NOT, but we say CAN’T.


Now that I know this, I can tell when podcasters have a written scrip in front of them.  So here’s the learning.  If you’re writing a book, full words are fine.  But if you’re writing a speech, use contractions.  Because that’s how we speak naturally.




Of course I know it’s impolite to interrupt. Podcasting taught me SO MUCH about interrupting.  When you interrupt someone on a podcast it becomes unintelligible, right?  When you interrupt someone on a zoom call, you hear nothing!


Sometimes though, when I’m conducting an interview, I need to interrupt someone to get clarity on something they said or to redirect the conversation.  Here’s the insight: use body language to signal that you need to interrupt.  Whether you’re on a Zoom call or face-to-face, raise your finger or your hand.  Or make a grand gesture like WAIT WAIT!  It works.  Trust me.  It helps me keep interviews on track and it’s much more polite than talking over someone.


Got it?  Interrupt with body language, not by talking over someone.




Here’s another one that I hear all the time now on podcasts and radio interviews.  And now you will too!


Let me back up. Much of the communication we do, especially when we’re interviewing or being interviewed is substantive content. It’s the stuff we tuned in to hear.  But some of it is niceties.  It’s these niceties that I’m talking about here.  Filler. Totally unnecessary comments. As unnecessary as crutch words.


The classic filler is at the beginning of an interview. Have you ever noticed that experienced interviewers NEVER ask the interviewee how they are?  Never.  This might sound a bit brutal, but we’re tuning in to hear something other than how your day’s going.


And furthermore, if someone asks HOW ARE YOU? A pro will answer quickly and move on to the content. 


So – HOW ARE YOU?  I’m great.  And I’m really curious to hear what you have to say about astrophysics. 


This is how the experts quickly and politely pivot the conversation to the relevant topic.  I har this all the time now on podcasts and on the news.  It’s brilliant.


The other filler comment that I hear when I’m interviewing people is “Wow -that’s a great Q.”  It always makes me smile.  I wonder to myself, was that REALLY a great Q, or are you just stalling before you answer the question?  I’m sure people are just saying it to be nice.  Or maybe they actually mean it. Usually, people say it just once.  Maybe twice in an interview.  Beyond that it’s a crutch word, right?  It’s a bad habit and they’re stalling.




OF COURSE breathing is important.  Duh, right? It comes up in so many contexts.  From our physical health to yoga to getting a good night’s sleep.  And in terms of communication breathing properly helps us feel confident and it makes our voice sound better.


Over two years ago, when I participated in Seth Godin’s’ PODCASTING FELLOWSHIP, Seth gave us some great advice that I still act on – 60 episodes later.  Seth encouraged us to remind ourselves and our podcast guests, no matter how experienced they are, to pause and take a slow deep breath before answering a question. that way we have a moment to think about our answer and or voice sounds better. GREAT ADVICE. 


I remember early on interviewing Bradley Christensen, the amazing baritone opera singer.  He’s a tall guy and he’s slim but he has a big chest.  And he talked about how the size of his chest means he has bigger lungs, which help with breathing and his singing voice.  Of course.  It’s all about breathing!


Here’s another thing about breathing that I learned.  We need to project with our voice on the exhale. I first heard this from presentations expert Andrew Musselman. It makes sense, right? Take a breath and then project your voice on the exhale.


So that’s #6.  Breathing. The next communication insight I learned from podcasting isn’t really a communication skill per se.  It’s more of an observation.  And it’s this.





I was really nervous early on, asking people to be a guest on my podcast.  I was so nervous to ask a few of my favourite, esteemed professors, like Jerry Zaltman and Ellen Auster and Russel Belk and Darin Flynn  Or celebrities, like Tosca Reno and others.  ALL of the guests I’ve interviewed are incredibly successful and busy in their careers.  Yet all of these guests, every one of them, said yes.


Take the CEO of one of Canada’s busiest hospitals, Dr. Joshua Tepper.  Yep, no problem.


Here’s the insight. People love to get their message out there. To share their expertise as it relates to communication.


There are also the people for whom communicating is their mission.  Like Nicole German who encourages us to talk about youth mental health.  And Andrea Warnick, who encourages us to talk with our grieving friends.


Almost 100% of the people I’ve asked said YES right away. I only received one generic rejection from a P.R. firm. This was last year. I read a fantastic book related to communication. So I emailed the author, gushing about how I devoured the book and inviting her to be a podcast guest.  She didn’t reply to me.  Her PR firm did, … NOPE.  Yes, I was … crushed. But you know what? We’re ok. 


For the most part, people love to talk. I’m very grateful to all of the amazing guests who’ve shared their communication expertise with us.  It is such a privilege to pick these people’s brains! I love it.  I hope you can tell how much I love it!





I guess it’s no surprise that the most popular, most downloaded Talk About Talk episodes are commonly searched topics and celebrity guests.  But there’s also a significant effect in terms of the guest or a listener sharing an episode with their network.


I studied social network analysis lots in university.  You may recall me saying that my research focused on word-of-mouth.  And WOM is certainly related to social networks.  So of course I understand the impact of networks.


But I have to say I was surprised at the effect of networks on podcast downloads.  I wasn’t anticipating that. A few of the podcast guests went full throttle on social media and emailed the episode to their network.  One guest told me she uses our podcast as her business card.  Others have the podcast highlighted as a feature on their LinkedIn page.  For all of these episodes,  downloads went way up. 


What I’d love to do is create a linear regression that predicts downloads.  Any statistics nerds out there?  I bet we can get a pretty accurate estimate on downloads from a few key factors,  including the popularity of the topic, the celebrity status of the guest and the network promotion that I do and that the guest does. 


Speaking of the power of networks, I also want to say I’ve been blown away by the supportive network of podcasters out there.  If you think about it. We’re all competing for marketshare.  Share of ear, I guess.  But so many podcasters are generous beyond what I could hope for.  There are many many of you. But thanks in particular to David Nebinski and Nadine Kelly and Andre Carneiro.  Each of them has an amazing podcast and each of them has supported and helped m immensely.  David’s podcast is about portfolio careers.  Nadine’s podcast is about yoga and health.  Andre’s podcast is about SEO and Google Ad words.  So they’re all incredibly different but they all have a common generosity that I appreciate.


The last I could do is share their podcasts with you, my network, right?  Check out the links to their awesome podcasts in the shownotes for this episode on the website.




This is one of those things that I knew previously, but that podcasting really brought home.


As I’ve told you many times, I LOVE haring from Talk About Talk listeners.  Any feedback or ideas you have to share, bring it on.


Do you want to know what’s one of the most common comments I get?  People LOVE the way I briefly summarize everything at the end of each episode.


Do you remember back in grade school – or maybe it was high school.  They encourage us to “tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, tell ‘em, then tell ‘em what you told them.”  Sound familiar?


I have this visceral memory of ignoring this advice when I was a doctoral student at Harvard.  And it blew up in my face.  It was one of the first times I was presenting my academic research.  I didn’t want to bore everyone, so I kept the punch line till the end.  BIG MISTAKE.  The senior faculty member who organized the talk stood up and said “Andrea! For gawds sake! Tell us where you’re going!”


Right. “tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, tell ‘em, then tell ‘em what you told them.”


So that’s what I try to do with these podcasts.  I tell you what you’re going to learn, then I tell you, then I summarize.


And that is one of the most common unsolicited compliments I get.  Yes, I had to learn the hard way.  I was yelled at in front of my peers.  But I got it.  Thank you.


And by the way, YES, I will summarize the 10 learnings again at the end of this podcast.





You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s so so true.  Listening to yourself – or better yet – watching yourself on video is the best way to improve your communication skills.


Listening to or watching yourself is the ideal way to internalize presentation skills development areas. The things you need to work on. To identify and drop crutch words, for example. Or to not interrupt by talking over someone. 


Of course it’s not easy.  I have a bonafide reason to listen to myself – I edit every single podcast. But otherwise I probably wouldn’t listen to myself.


Just this past week I was interviewed by someone else who promised to send me the audio after the interview.  IT took a while for me to click on the file and listen to it.  I know it’s not easy,


But I PROMISE with all my might – listening to yourself or watching yourself is absolutely the fastest way to improve your communication skills.  So make an excuse to record yourself at a meeting or for a presentation and force yourself to listen.  I promise you will learn things and you will act on them.


I hope you’ll try it. OK – that’s it.  10 communication insights that I learned thanks to podcasting. Each of these communication insights are things that can help all of us become better communicators.


You can always reference this list in the shownotes on the website.  But here they are again –(BTW,  look at me, telling you what I told you)


  1. CRUTCH WORDS – as in unnecessary words that you use repeatedly. Stop with the crutch words.
  2. MIRRORING – mirroring body language, tone, and words. It’s flattering to be mirrored.
  3. CONTRACTIONS – people use contractions for speaking and full words for writing. Not using contractions is spoken word is a dead give-away that someone’s reading a script.
  4. INTERRUPTING WITH BODY LANGUAGE – Of course it’s rude to talk over someone. If you need to interject, use body language to let them know.
  5. FILLER COMMENTS – These are the unnecessary comments. As in “how are you?” (I know I sound cold, but again, that’s not why we’re listening) and as in “that’s a great Q!”
  6. BREATHING – Take a breath before you answer a question. And always reject with your voice on the exhale.
  7. PEOPLE LOVE TO TALK – almost 100 of the amazing people I invited to be guests on the Talk About Talk podcast enthusiastically said yes. People are probably more willing to share their expertise than you think.
  8. NETWORK EFFECTS – Of course network effects are impactful.
  9. THE FLOW – as in “tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, tell ‘em, then tell ‘em what you told them.” I learned that the hard way years ago, and now the Talk About Talk listeners are loving that flow. People love summaries – the Coles Notes. The cheatsheets.
  10. LISTENING TO YOURSELF – is the fastest way to improve our communication skills. It’s not fun. Most of us dread hitting play on a recording of ourselves.  But it’s probably the most efficient and effective way to learn.


That’s it, except to say THANK YOU for listening to Talk About Talk. I appreciate you, and all your comments more than you know. 


If you want to get some free communication skills coaching from me, just sign up for the weekly newsletter.  It’s never more than once a week and it’s never spammy.  Just go to Talk About Talk .com to sign up or email me and I’ll sign you up. I’m at 


Thanks for listening.  And TALK SOON!







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