But, umm, how do I get myself to stop saying, you know, filler words.
That’s a question that gets asked a lot by podcasters and public speakers.
I will offer some tips to reduce fillers, but first I have to talk about the purpose of filler words.
There are techniques to get yourself to not be you—that is, to stop talking like a normal person.
I was going to link to a particular article with tips to eliminate those kinds of words, but the attitude of the writer was so negative and judgmental I just couldn’t do it.
I have a different perspective on filler words anyway.
This kind of speech is often called “disfluency,” which sounds like a disease or something.
The purpose of “fillers”
So-called filler words actually serve a purpose. Multiple purposes, depending on the kind of words you use.
A lot of times we think of these words as meaningless. An ummm is just a vocalized pause, they say. It doesn’t mean anything, they say. But they are wrong. That’s not true. There’s a reason for filler words. There’s a reason these words are in every language.
Next time you hear those filler words, think hard about what each word is doing. Of course, to be able to do that, you cannot judge the speaker negatively. That’s what a lot of people do.
These words have a purpose. Pay attention to what the words are doing for either the speaker or the whole conversation the next time you’re hanging out with friends.
Here are a couple of things to notice.
Keeping the floor
Sometimes a filler word is signaling to others that you’re about to keep talking, but you need a moment to process what you’re about to say.
And in much the same way, a filler word prevents others from interrupting. When you’re talking, you have the floor, so to speak. You know if you pause too long, someone will jump in with their own ideas.
You know what I mean?
Other filler words like “you know” are often used to get listeners to acknowledge what you’re saying. But again, without necessarily yielding the floor.
I’m going to link to a few articles at the end of this post if you’d like to read more about all this.
When you start studying communication and language, you discover that humans are curious and fascinating. The use of filler words is just one of those communication techniques we all use, and most likely have always used.
Normal vs. Performance Speech
Normal conversations have filler words. It’s how we communicate. It’s authentic.
However, maybe when you speak, you don’t want to be that authentic. In a podcast or public speech, you might want to speak without filler words. I get that.
Just because normal human conversations overflow with filler words, it doesn’t mean you want to waste your listeners’ time with all that.
And worse, some people think filler words make you appear unsure about what you’re talking about—and they judge you for it.
Minimizing filler words
So, if you want to get rid of those words when you talk, there are different methods you can use.
One of the best ways to speak with fewer fillers is to prepare more. When you know exactly what you want to say, it’s less likely you’ll use filler words.
Another method is actual practice. It’s not enough to just prepare. If you really want to speak without filler words, you need to practice speaking your message over and over and over and over until it becomes a part of you.
Wait for it . . .
You can also try replacing your filler words with silence. Seriously.
The pause is a communication technique that gives your listeners a chance to process what you’ve been saying. And it can draw attention to the next words you’re about to speak.
Prepare more. Practice more. Pause more.
If you want to reduce your use of filler words, those are three techniques that will help.
But remember this. If you drop a “you know” on occasion, it really is okay. It just means you’re human.
But it may be Nicholas Christenfeld, a psychologist at the University of California, San Diego, and other researchers who have come up with the most appealing findings. He counted uhs among professors giving lectures and found that the humanities professors say you know and uh 4.85 times per minute, social scientists 3.84 and natural science professors 1.39 times, which, he said, suggests that humanists have more expressive options from which to choose.http://www.speech.sri.com/press/nyt-jan03-2004.html