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The Detrimental Power of Filler Words

We use filler words to hold our place in a conversation. Partly out of habit, partly because we’re afraid of transitional silence. But as famed English actor Sir Ralph Richardson once said, “The most precious things in speech are the pauses.”

Nothing hinders your credibility quicker than the overuse of filler words. If you’re not sure whether you use filler words or not, assume that you do. Don’t believe it? Have someone film you speaking or ask a friend to keep count before your next speech.

I’m not going to say you need to slap yourself every time you say “uh.” Neither am I going to suggest that the elimination of filler words from your vocabulary is something you should dedicate yourself to accomplishing. But if one of the following words or expressed hesitations consists of more than 10 percent of your talk, then you have some work to do:

- You know?
- Like
- Basically
- Actually
- Supposedly
- Totally
- Literally
- Honestly
- Okay, so...
- Pretty much
- I mean
- Um
- Uhhh

These flow disruptors communicate doubt. Additionally, when overused, they force the audience to dig to find the meaning behind your words. If the audience has to put extra effort in figuring out what you’re saying, many will decide that it’s just not worth the work.

Okay so, pretty much... if you like, use filler words a lot, ummm, basically you um…should work on that. You know?

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