Apr 28, 2022
Today's topic comes from my client Kiley who is passionate about her speaking and presentation skills. Kiley coaches sales professionals and wanted to know what filler words are, why we use them, and what we can do about them.
I love this question and have researched-backed answers to help you (and Kiley) out.
What are they? Filler words are meaningless words, sounds, or phrases that mark a pause or hesitation in speech.
Examples include: "uh, um, like, so, er, OK, right and ya know."
Why do they happen? Researchers have narrowed down the causes of filler words to three reasons.
• Divided attention: this is when your brain is trying to focus on multiple things at once. For example, you're trying to talk and type at the same time or when you're speaking and become distracted by an audience member.
• Infrequent word use: this happens when we try to use words that we don't use regularly. Our brains start searching for a word and pauses, throwing in an "um" in an attempt to keep our speech fluent.
• Nerves: when we're nervous, we tend to increase our speech rate, which can lead to increased use of filler words.
What can we do about filler words? A few filler words here or there won't hurt, and they may actually help increase your approachability and authenticity. However, most researchers agree that our credibility goes down when we use filler words frequently. With that in mind, three thingsyou can do that will help are;
Change your mindset. Adopt the mentality that your listeners will not notice any anxiety you have. We give people more credit than is due for their observational skills, which leads us to amp our anxiety unnecessarily.
Practice. Say it out loud in front of people. Practicing in front of others engages your brain's motor planning cortex, which creates muscle memory for your talk. The more you practice speaking aloud, the more fluent you'll become.
Engage your audience. Asking questions, encouraging note-taking, and inviting others to speak help take the focus off of you, decreasing your nervousness and focusing on what matters.
And last but not least, Duvall, Robbins, Graham, and Divett recommend working with a speech-language pathologist trained in helping people speak fluently.
That's the scoop on filler words.
I hope you've found this helpful. If you're looking for help with your speaking skills, contact me. I am a Speech-Language Pathologist, and I'd be happy to help.
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