Anyone who has been in one of my presentation programs or coaching sessions knows that I am pretty darn passionate about removing filler words — from both presentations and everyday language. Why? Because filler words aren’t doing you any favors. In fact, they could be hurting your ability to communicate effectively. Here are the three main reasons to remove filler words from your vocabulary:
Fillers Have the Potential to Distort Your Message
While a simple “um” or “ah” doesn’t alter the meaning of your message, fillers such as “kinda” and “you know” are actual words that can impact the intention of your message. Here is an example: “This graph is a new way to show kinda how the data can be used to make better decisions, you know.” How much confidence will you have in a graph that only “kinda” does what it is supposed to? And, if it is a “new way” of showing information, how could I possibly already “know”? This type of verbiage makes me think you aren’t comfortable or confident with your information.
We’re Too Busy to Spend Time Slogging Through Your Message
The more filler words in your message, the more your audience has to filter those words to understand your key message. Who has time for that? Instead, our minds will wander, and we will fill in the information using only a few of the words we hear. Of course, ultimately, this doesn’t guarantee your audience will take away what you intended.
“When we first started this project, we were like nervous as to how to proceed because, um, this was all new to us, you know. And ah… we didn’t have enough information to, you know, determine whether we were like heading down the right path or if we needed to consider an, um, alternative. So, you know, we kinda reached out to some external experts for guidance and, um, they sort of helped us to understand that our first step was to like clarify the purpose of the project as well as identify all the ways the, um, end users would be using the data, right.”
Say, what? If you think the above paragraph is an exaggeration, it is not. This was taken directly from a presentation that I attended.
You Lose the Power of the Pause
Both filler words and pauses can provide a mental break for the speaker while they think about what to say next. However, filler words make you sound like you aren’t sure of what you are saying. In contrast, the pause has power because it makes you sound confident. Adding a pause in your speech also allows the audience a moment to reflect on what you have just said. After all, you don’t kinda want your audience to absorb your message; you totally want them to!
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