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Do You Have a Filler Problem?

Speak clearly for professional success!Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve focused our blogs on helping young adults and recent graduates hone their interview skills to help them land their dream job. We’ve also discussed some of the speech and communication habits that can kill a job interview. Today, we’d like to go into more depth about one of the most common and most detrimental of these speech habits: filler words.

Fillers are words, phases or sounds which hold no content, but are often added to speech. Some of the most common filler words and phrases are “um,” “well,” “you know,” “basically” and “okay?” Using fillers is often a deeply engrained habit that can be difficult to break. However, it’s worth the effort; fillers can disrupt the flow of your speech and make you sound sloppy, unprofessional, and unsure of yourself. Corporate Speech Solutions uses a systematic, four-step approach to eliminating filler words from your speech.

  • Step 1: Awareness Before you can reduce your use of filler words, you have to be aware that you’re using them. One great way to do this is to record yourself as you speak. Record yourself during a typical conversation either on the phone or in person for at least two minutes. As you listen to your recording, count how many filler words you used. You should be using no more than two filler words in two minutes; if you use filler words more frequently than this, you risk distracting your audience and confusing your message.
  • Step 2: Recognizing your personal patterns. Each person has a particular pattern when it comes to filler words. The same recording created in Step 1 can be used in this step as well. Listen to the recording again, and which fillers you used and when you use them. What words and phrases do you say most? Do you typically use them at the beginning of sentences? As connectors? When you’re thinking, nervous or caught off guard?
  • Step 3: Anticipate Using the information you gathered from Steps 1 and 2, you should now be able to anticipate when you will most likely use filler words as well as which ones you most commonly use. In order to use this to your advantage, choose a specific time in your daily routine in which you will be particularly conscious of your use of filler words. For example, you may choose a meeting with your colleagues or the time in which you return your voicemails. Whichever situation you select, during this period, closely monitor your speech and take mental note of when you feel tempted to use a filler word.
  • Step 4: Pause Once you have noted that you are tempted to use a filler word, simply pause instead. Most people feel self-conscious using silence in a conversation, but a well-timed pause sounds far more professional and confident than filling the silence with fillers like “umm” and “well”. When you are tempted to use a filler word, simply stop for a moment. This will give you the opportunity to gather your thoughts and will give your listener the chance to process your message, helping to make your speech more comprehensible.

Want to learn more? Click the link below to hear Corporate Speech Solutions’ founder and president, Jayne Latz, talk about filler words during a recent workshop:

If you want additional support polishing your professional communication skills and learning how to ace the interview, a corporate speech-language pathologist can help! For information on the New York Based Speech and Accent Reduction services offered by Corporate Speech Solutions please give us a call at 212-308-7725 or visit us on the web at www.corporatespeechsolutions.com. Not in NYC? No problem! We also provide Skype and video conferencing services.

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