It’s no secret that the excessive use of filler words makes you seem less intelligent than you are. Filler words are meaningless words that show hesitation and confuse your listener. Sometimes it’s so egregious that people can only listen to a speaker’s filler words.
Filler words seriously undermine your authority and credibility.
To be taken more seriously & to get people to follow our lead, we need to eliminate filler words from our speech and our stories. Or at least significantly reduce them. It’s not as hard as you may think. But it will require practice.
Remember anything you’re good at you’ve practiced for. And all great communicators have worked on their speech, but they’re keeping it a secret.
We use more filler words in high-stakes situations.
Did you ever notice that the more anxiety you feel the more you make speech mistakes? This happens to everyone! Just when you need to be at your best is when you mess up!
Job interviews and presentations are higher-stakes situations than ordering food or chatting with your bestie.
Look at the various speaking situations in your life, such as speaking in meetings, introductions, small talk at the water cooler, giving presentations, going on a first date, and put them in order in terms of stakes.
Make a chart and put the low stakes on the bottom & high stakes situations on top.
If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll see that you use more filler words in the higher-stakes speaking situations. How unfortunate & ironic is that? When we most need to be at our best, we perform at our worst.
But have no fear, I am here! I’m going to show you an easy way to eliminate filler words from your life.
I was quoted in Time Out New York in 1998 (brag but showing my age!) saying, “Replace your filler words with pauses. Stop, take a breath in, and use that air for speech.”
Eliminate your filler words.
I stand by that piece of advice. But let me give you more. Here are the steps in a nutshell and I describe them in more detail later.
- Divide your sentences into chunks of clauses or phrases.
- Pause between those chunks.
- Replace filler words with pauses.
- Make your breath groups up to 6 words. Keep them short.
- Take a breath in between speech chunks.
- Let your voice take a ride on the air.
- Practice from easy speaking situations to challenging ones.
As with everything I teach you, you’ll need to put in a little practice, but you’ll be filler word-free in just a couple of days or weeks.
But you can also equate your speaking training (in this case eliminating filler words) with any other practice you do. Do you have a tennis pro or a golf pro? Are you continually trying to improve your swing? Do you play an instrument and understand the importance of practice? Well, the same goes here.
Excellent communication skills will get you far in life. Being a crystal clear & highly refined communicator makes people trust you & buy whatever it is you’re trying to sell.
Here’s how to do it:
Take a breath in before you speak, then use the air that you breathe out for your speech. When you finish with your phrase or sentence, STOP, take a breath in, and use that air for your next phrase or sentence. This will take a bit of practice but results in your sounding credible & persuasive!
Essentially, doing this causes you to Replace Filler Words with Pauses. This, by the way, is the correct way to speak.
Step 1. Hit the record button on your voice recorder app. Don’t be scared! You can do this!
Step 2. Take a breath in (down to your stomach.)
Step 3. Using the air that comes out on your exhale, say a short sentence. Make your speech into bullets of ideas.
Step 4. Stop. Breathe into your stomach again.
Step 5. On your exhalation, say another chunk of information.
Practice this for 5 minutes every day for ten days. You are practicing replacing filler words with pauses and an inhale. The result is that you’re putting out information in easy to process chunks of information. And people can now easily follow your call to action!
Eliminate Filler Words From All Areas of Your Life!
Ok, now you know how to eliminate filler words, but how to make it a habit in your life?
Keep in mind that unlearning old habits & learning new ones requires a bit of exaggeration. So don’t be afraid to use long pauses & loads of air while you’re speaking. And you have to sound a little crazy in your head. That’s the point of using the recorder. Because even though it sounds weird in your head, you’ll play it back on the recorder & it’ll sound incredible! After a while, you’ll find your new normal–filler word free! And you’ll not have to think about your speech while you’re talking again!
Remember, if you don’t make speaking in bullets a habit in your life, you’ll have to think about your speech every time you talk. That doesn’t work.
Categorize Your Speaking Life
Now choose three categories in your life where you want to eliminate your filler words. Do you use fillers in meetings more than with friends? Do you want to be filler-free during talks with your boss? How about when giving your elevator pitch? Chatting up a cutie pie on a first date? Just work on one speaking category at a time. Take each communicative situation and stack ’em in order of stakes like we did earlier.
Start with the most comfortable speaking situations & follow those five steps above. Once you master that communicative situation, move on to the next challenging milieu. This is not brain surgery; it just takes determination on your part.
Write down some things that you might say during your chosen categories & apply the five steps. Don’t worry–you won’t have to memorize everything you’re ever going to say. Just do it for about a week. Each time you do it, you’ll get better in your spontaneous speech. After a few of these exercises, you’ll start to see this technique seeping into your everyday speech. 🙂
Happy filler-word free life!
What do you think? How do you get rid of your fillers? I did the above to myself. Didn’t take long. When do you use fillers most? I think for me it was in social situations. Which filler words do you use most? I was a big “like” and “um girl. All commenters get a secret prize!