“Um, ah, uh, you know.”
Watch out for overuse of filler words and practice pausing to counteract the clutter.
Using Filler Words
Filler words have become so common in our colloquial speech patterns that we scarcely notice we’re even saying them. We start our sentences with the word “so,” never consciously realizing it. We inject our sentences with the word “like,” never thinking about the literal ramifications of its use, and fill every pause with an “um” or an “uh” as an almost involuntary reflex. These filler words seem innocent enough, but if they take over the bulk of your speech, they become distracting and reflect poorly on you as the speaker.
Fortunately you can train yourself to avoid them by making yourself conscious of their use and correcting yourself every time one slips out until your natural speech pattern is free of them.
How do you, like, stop it then?
Awareness is the first step, saidLisa B. Marshall, a communications expert and the author of “Smart Talk: The Public Speaker’s Guide to Success in Every Situation,”.
She recommended that clients record themselves in conversations and listen to the recordings five minutes a day for two weeks.
“Trust me, after a week of listening, or recording and listening, you’ll have become acutely aware of your specific problems,” she wrote in a blog post. “You need to be able to hear your disfluencies in your mind before you blurt them out.”
Speakers need to relax and take a deep breath when finishing a thought. A focus on breathing will make it more difficult to introduce a wayward expression.
Substitute silence for the verbal fillers, Ms. Marshall added. That might be awkward at first, but it is better to have a moment of quiet than a distracting “you know” or “um.”
Ms. Prud’hommeaux suggested a more hands-on approach: “If no one has come up with it yet, maybe we need an app that would shock you whenever it hears you say ‘like.’ Or hire a friend to punch you whenever you say it.”