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Filler Words – Detractors of Effective Communication

Early public speakers often exhibit a poor habit of utilizing filler words (umm, ahh, etc.) while speaking. Nearly every student of mine at the Institute of Public Speaking and elsewhere uses these ineffective filler words. An anxious state of mind and a lack of practice keeps us from speaking or communicating effectively. A perfect example happens on a daily basis if you watch the local TV news. Frequently reporters will interview a witness or a local individual who isn’t a seasoned media professional. You will most often hear their speech filled with filler words that add no meaning to their communication:

Umm, Uhhh, Ahh, Ohh, Sooo, And, Like…

Funny thing is if you listen these individuals most certainly have a message but we often are distracted by their repeated use of these filler words. We as listeners often judge these individuals as ineffective communicators because of the frequent and disruptive use of these filler words.

Why We Use Filler Words

We use filler words when we are in a nervous or anxious state of mind and have not practiced eliminating them from our speech. Once we practice eliminating them we find that we are able to allow the natural pauses or silence in between what we are communicating.

Silence Is Golden

Ironically, what we say is important as HOW we say it. In the case of filler words it is better for us to get in the habit of leaving a space in our communication that to use filler words. Others will perceive us as more effective public speakers, and more organized and intelligent communicators. So drop those… Umm filler words can be – um removed making you a more effective speaker. Instead use a pause and silence to add weight to your communication. The key to this is practice and quality tutelage.

Filler Words No More

Only with a developed awareness of when you are using filler words will you minimize their use. Recording yourself on a smartphone, webcam or computer can help in building an awareness of our use of these filler words. Practice and review your speeches with an ear for these words and you’ll notice (over time) that you improve. Remember, sometimes a well placed pause or silence speaks volumes. As always perfection isn’t important. Instead we should look to minimize our use of these words and we will certainly improve our speeches and presentations. Please share your insights and comments below.

1 thought on “Filler Words – Detractors of Effective Communication”

  1. Charles Bassett

    Hi Joseph, I belong to a Toastmaster club. I have recommended to members to practice reading out loud a favorite passage.
    While they are speaking to concentrate on pauses when needed. When starting a new sentence I encourage them to focus on the first word, to truly emphasize the first word. By giving the first word the power it deserves it can help to reduce ahs, ums, etc…

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