Filler Words 2.0

We are often unconscious of the filler words we use. Yet, language matters and the words you use have an impact on your effectiveness as a speaker and as a leader.

In 2020, I wrote a blog post about eliminating filler words. One of the tips was to record yourself and listen to become aware of the filler words you use. Recently I had the opportunity to listen to a conversation on the radio, and I was shocked to hear that I had used “um” numerous times. We all can get complacent with our speech. Using many filler words suggests to the listener(s) that you are unprepared or nervous.

One way to improve your credibility with customers and coworkers is to speak clearly, starting with removing filler words. Filler words are words, sounds, or phrases people use to “fill in” empty spaces in communication.

WellSeriouslyI guess

Filler words indicate that the speaker is trying to think about what to say next. In most cases, they have a negative effect and reflect poorly on your communication skills. Good communication, in both speech and writing, demands consciousness. The fewer words you use, the stronger your words become. When you remove all the unnecessary words, the listener or reader can focus more on the necessary remaining words.

Filler words do not add more to your message. Instead, they distract from your other words. When we start a sentence with, I mean, I guess, I suppose you come across as passive. As a communicator, you must be confident and choose words that reflect your confidence.

Things you can do:

  • Record yourself and mark down the filler words you use.
  • Speak slowly. 
    • Slow down if you find yourself using too many filler words when speaking. Give yourself extra time to think.
  • Embrace the Silence
    • Do not fear the ‘awkward silence.’ A momentary pause can be a powerful communication tool. It allows the listener to reflect on your words, adding more significance to what was said last.
    • A small silence is often better than a string of filler words.
  • Avoid “I think.” 
    • When speaking up in a meeting, many people will use the phrase “I Think,” this shows that you are not an expert on an issue. Instead, you use the phrase “In my experience, I’ve found,” which validates your knowledge, or “our view is,” which lends weight to your entire organization.
  • Avoid “I may be way off base.”
    • This phrase is often said when someone has something unconventional to say. This phrase devalues the comment before you share the idea or thought. Instead, try, “Let us look at this from a different perspective. What if…” This demonstrates creative thinking.

Language matters and the words you use impact your effectiveness as a speaker and a s a leader.

By Cheryl Viola, Executive Director & CEO, MBA