If you were to write “tsk” you’d think of that sound we’ve come to associate with showing disapproval or disappointment.  When you were a child, you may have heard “tsk” from an authority figure such as a parent or teacher when you behaved in a way that was frowned upon.

As a Corporate Communication & Speech Specialist, I’m hard-wired to notice even the smallest sound or gesture if it in any way is distracting when my client communicates.  This month I’ve observed three of my clients who all make the “tsk” sound, which is referred to as a tongue click.  In each instance when I’ve brought it up, the clients were completely oblivious to the fact that they were making this sound.

You may be wondering why someone would do this and the answer is simple–it’s a vocal filler.  You’ve seen prior posts where I refer to verbal fillers such as um, uh, ah.  This is the same issue but instead of saying a word, the speaker fills the space with a sound, which happens to be a tongue click.  Most of us are quite uncomfortable with silence and seek ways to avoid it, even if it’s with a verbal or vocal filler.

As with a verbal filler or verbal virus, the tongue click is easily heard and calls negative attention to the speaker.  Eventually, listeners anticipate the sound before it even occurs, which means they’re not as focused on the message.

With my clients, my first step was bringing it to their awareness by signaling when it occurred and then recording them.  That was a breakthrough and then we took additional measures to reduce and ultimately eliminate the behavior.

Like most habits, we can unlearn something we’ve learned with the right guidance. If tongue clicking is something you do or that you’ve heard when a friend or colleague speaks, let me know and I’ll be happy to assist.


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