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Education & Information

Here's a quick and easy way to learn how to stop using filler words including 'um,' 'uh' and 'like'

Here's a quick and easy way to learn how to stop using filler words including 'um,' 'uh' and 'like'
via TEDxIHEParis / Flickr

Americans love using filler words such as "uh," "uhm," "like" and "y'know."

A study published in Big Think found that "uh" dominates in the Deep South, New England, Minnesota and Wisconsin. "Uhm" is the preferred filler word in Ohio and Kentucky in the east to Arizona and Wyoming out west.

The West Coast is pretty much "uh" and "uhm" neutral, although the Bay area has a soft spot for "uh" and the coast from Nor Cal to Oregon particularly loves to "uhm" its way though sentences.


Regardless of what filler words you use, they can be a major communication barrier when speaking to coworkers, in client meetings, or i front of large groups.

In social situations, filler words can also weigh down your conversation skills.

Using filler words is bad for the speaker's credibility and can make it a lot harder for an audience to pay attention. For the most part, we use filler words to make time for our thoughts to catch up to our mouths.

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The good news is that there are some easy techniques that can help anyone to stop using filler words.

This video by Tech Insider is a great place to start.

You're probably not aware of how often you're using filler words because it's happening unconsciously. According to Presentation and communications skills expert, Deborah Grayson Riege, this stage is known as "unconscious incompetence."

The first way to become cognizant of your use of filler words is to have a friend, coworker or family member clap every time you use one. That way you begin to realize how, where, and when you say them.

If you want to figure it out alone, record yourself having conversations then take note of how often and in what situations you use filler words.

Once you feel you're about to use a filler word, pause and say nothing instead.

"Actively choosing to say nothing is a better alternative than filling the space with sound that doesn't add to the content, or to your credibility,"Riege says.

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"And pausing has additional benefits, including giving the audience time to process the information you're sharing, helping you pace yourself (especially if you tend to speed up when nervous), giving you a moment to catch your breath and get your thoughts in order," she continued.

While you may feel uncomfortable pausing, your audience probably won't notice the break in your sentence. Conversely, using filler words and "uhming" your way through the sentence will definitely be noticed by the audience.

To an audience, using a filler word makes one appear thoughtless whereas pausing to find the perfect word makes one look thoughtful. That can make the entire difference between making a great impression and floundering in the public eye.





All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

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