Ah um, so where do I start? Filler words. You can’t get rid of them, and you can’t stop saying them. Eh, help!
We all say them in our speech but in small doses they are acceptable, it´s when you overdose that they become unforgivable. Filler words can undermine our credibility and make us look unprepared and unknowledgeable about what we are trying to communicate to our clients and colleagues in the business environment. They are so destructive that you can go from being an eloquent speaker to a blubbering fool in an instant. Messages get lost, connections get misconstrued, and people end up remembering you in a sympathetic way in hope’s that they will never have to suffer through your speeches again.
So, what do we do? How do we get rid of these “pesky” filler words once and for all? Is it even possible? Here are some quick and effective steps to apply that may be the cure to your ailment.
STEP 1: PRACTICE
Practice is the most obvious one, but how many people truly take the time to practice before they speak? I mean, really practice. Practice is defined in the Webster dictionary as a “repeated exercise in a performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.” In other words, to be a proficient speaker my recommendation is to practice a minimum of 10 times in order for your speech to be perfected and nearly 100% free of filler words. Practice every chance you get. In front of the mirror and in front of friends. If you have practiced enough times, you will feel secure in what you are saying and eventually eliminate those filler words.
STEP 2: AWARENESS
So many people are unaware that they even say filler words. It is key to record yourself and listen to your voice when you speak. In our world of WhatsApp and Messenger recordings, play back the voice messages you leave your friends and family. Keep count of how many filler words you have used throughout, and how often. Find out which one is your favorite, and the one you most commonly use. Does there seem to be a pattern? The word that you say most often write it down on a post-it as a visual reminder of that word that has become your nemeses.
STEP 3: PAUSE
Pausing is what many of us need to practice especially those that are long winded! Why do pauses make us feel so uncomfortable and uneasy? Is it because we think others will perceive us negatively? Well guess what, they will most likely perceive you worse if you keep using up that space with fillers, um, ok?
Pausing helps to restructure your message, dramatize and add interest if used precisely. It also gives our brains the opportunity to think about what you are going to say next. Transitional pauses that are between (1-3 seconds) are a good option. In emergency situations where you may have even forgotten what you were going to say, a dramatic pause(between 3-5 seconds) may be the life jacket you need in your sea of disaster.
Hopefully after following these tips you will be able to overcome this handicap and sound like the competent person that you are. If none of these tips help, then you may want to consider keeping your mouth shut!
Karyn Suárez is an Executive Coach and Public Speaking and Communication Trainer. She works with multinational companies in Spain and the USA helping executives to improve their public speaking and communication skills.