The importance of eliminating filler words from our conversation cannot be overemphasized and many communication experts know this to be undeniably true. This advice is often easy to dispense and harder to execute because we all use filler words such as ‘um’, ‘ah’, and ‘like’ from time to time. The two most common words which creep up in professional conversations are “You know”. No, I don’t know. Even business leaders, entrepreneurs, job applicants, television/radio professionals engage this verbal fillers recurrently, which can be quite annoying and distracting.
An angel investor shared a pitch scenario he had that began like this, “Well, thanks for giving us the opportunity to pitch. We, you know, have an idea for the tech industry, you know, that’s ready to disrupt the market.” Within ten seconds the angel investor tuned off the conversation. Why? The entrepreneur used a buzzword that has been exhausted – disruption and what the investor found more annoying was the infuriating filler phrase; “You know”.
No, the investor doesn’t know.
Saying ‘you know’ to fill space, gives the impression that you are uncertain, or trying to find validation for your idea. Nevertheless, it’s unprofessional and distracting whereas you should sound strong and assured, not passive and frail. The use of filler words does not diminish a person’s competence, but it reduces how effective that person is perceived by other people. These are some ways to eliminate fillers from your statements so they don’t take away the value of what you are communicating:
Assess your frequency
Record your voice and do an objective analysis of the list of your filler words. You can also record yourself on video; this gives you the chance to know how often you use these filler sounds and also see the expressions on your face, which is a form of verbal feedback.
Find out why
Filler words pop up in most of our conversations when the brain needs a moment to process what the mouth will say. So find out why you are doing it and increase your level of preparation. There is a higher tendency to use filler words when your level of preparation is low because your brain has to generate words on the fly, compared to drawing them from your memory, based on how prepared you are.
Learn to slow down
This will reduce those filler sounds because it makes it easier for your brain to keep up when you slow down and embrace the pause. A modest reduction in pace is great and it will also help your audience to understand what you are saying. Sometimes, all you have to do is to just pause. Rather than the ums and ahs, replace it with silence and most importantly monitor your progress and be patient with yourself to wean off filler words and replace them with strong and positive words in uninterrupted thought.
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