When it comes to professional communication, how you say something is often just as important as what you say. Last week we talked about some of the communication issues that young adults often experience as they’re making the transition from student to young professional, including the use of filler words. Fillers are words and phrases that have no meaning, but are habitually used in speech. For example, um, uh, like, and you know are all common fillers. Speech that has too many fillers can make you sound unprofessional and unsure of your speech. Unfortunately, fillers aren’t only a communication issue of young adults; nearly all of my clients overuse fillers to some extent when we first begin working together. In order to eliminate this problem, I help my clients to use Corporate Speech Solutions’ systematic, four-stem approach to removing fillers from your professional 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.
- Step 2: Recognizing your personal patterns. Each person has a particular pattern when it comes to filler words. Listen to the recording you made in Step 1. Which fillers did you use? When did you use them? 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 fillers like “umm” and “well”. Pausing will also give you the opportunity to gather your thoughts and will give your listener the chance to process your message.
If you have questions or are interested in improving your communication skills, give me a call at 212-308-7725 or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you might have!
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