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Use Your Um....Words

Use Your Um....Words

Filler words.  Everyone has them.  Those pesky extra words that fill up the spaces in otherwise natural  conversation and seem to come out even when you try your best to avoid them. What's a "filler word" you ask?  It's the "ums" "uhs" and "you know what I'm sayings" that English teachers and mamas everywhere have been trying to get us to eliminate from our vocabularies for years. 

We've all got them.  Hell, I've got them.  The funny thing about filler words is that you don't notice them until someone points them out to you.  Don't believe me?  I bet you are now thinking about what your filler words are, and you will be distracted today thinking about them. The other funny thing about filler words is that when someone points them out, entire conversations shift to being about the filler words and away from the actual topic of interest....(thus making the conversation about filler words...which in and of itself is a filler)....ironic, huh?

Just last week, the hubs and I were eating dinner and I lovingly pointed out his filler words ("I'll be completely honest with you"). We got completely off topic and started discussing how to communicate more effectively. Step one - identify the fillers.  Step two - cut out the fillers.  I pointed out to him that I have a terrible speech habit of using fillers also so there is no need to feel bad about having them.  If you're careful, you can pick up when I'm BS-ing or crystallizing something (often) by listening to how and when I use my filler words. I won't give up all my secrets, but my filler word of the moment is "you know".  I hear myself using those words and I cringe every time. Like I'm dying a little bit inside each time I waste space with unnecessary words.  

Here's the thing about filler words: not only are they superfluous and distracting, but they tend to communicate something opposite to what you intend.  For instance, next time you are sitting through someone's presentation, listen to how many time they use the classic filler word "um".  I guarantee that you will miss the entire substance of the presentation, but you will have a mean-girl tally of how many times they used a filler word.  Take another example: when I say, "you know?" it instantly makes me seem not credible because it's as if I am questioning myself.  If I question myself, shouldn't you?  Another example: when my husband says "I'll be completely honest with you," what does he mean when he doesn't say that as a lead in to a sentence?  That in those cases he's lying?  Certainly not, but you see how filler words can battle against your communicative intent?  Easily...

At the end of the day, filler words are just things to fill up space while your brain is processing your current or next thought.  People are generally uncomfortable with pregnant pauses and feel the need to fill them with something.  Usually noise.  Enter the filler word!  I've learned to appreciate the pauses because they allow me to gather my thoughts and ensure that I am intentional about what I'm saying instead of just saying something for the sake of speaking. 

Now that I have waxed poetic about this topic and made you feel like an awful communicator, go forth and eliminate those nuisance filler words!  Eventually you'll get rid of them, you know? (gotcha!)

If you are looking for tips on how to adjust your speech habits and work to eliminate those filler words, read this interesting article from Forbes.

Photo Credit: Jason Rosewell

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