According to Lisa B. Marshall, 20% of our daily conversations are filled with “Ums,” “Ah’s” and other filler words, called “disfluencies.” Check out this executive she cites:
“I, like, work for a big bank, like, Citibank. I work, um, in technology, and head-up a group of like, 500 people, right. I do, like, technology risk assessment, right, and create, um, processes, to, like, reduce risk, right.”
Poor guy. He uses disfluencies and has people citing him over the internet.
So why do we use filler words, and how do we get rid of them?
Paul Rigney tells us that people finish one sentence, say um, and then go onto the next one. Or, they will finish a clause or thought, say um, and go on to another. The ums exist because people keep trying to cram two sentences or thoughts into one, instead of keeping them separate as they would be on paper.
Fortunately, you can kick the habit with a bit of practice and a bunch of pauses:
- When speaking, finish your sentence (or thought), and then pause.
- During the pause, close your mouth.
- Then go on to the next sentence.
Pauses are more than just ok. They give your audience time to think about what you just said, rather than having to listen to ums or ahs in between sentences. Pauses also help you maintain an even pace and give you time to breathe, making your speech more effective and your voice smoother.
Becoming aware of your filler words.
Before tackling those disfluencies, however, it’s helpful to become aware of them. To help underline the ah-counter’s report, we’ve devised the TFC challenge. The TFC challenge is optional for those who want an extra tool to kick the habit.
Here’s how it works:
- You give a speech, with several ums or ahs.
- The grammarian gives his or her report.
- For every um or ah, you put one coin in the jar.
- Any type of coin is ok. You can do all pennies, or put in big ones if you find yourself committing some very grievous disfluencies.
Where does the money go? To the bank of course. And from there, we use it to buy educational and promotional materials for the club, such as the successful club series and fliers, as well as small awards for people who complete programs.
As you can see, the TFC challenge has many benefits. You eliminate filler words, help the club provide learning opportunities, and have fun competing against yourself. Once you’ve settled in, we encourage you to take the TFC challenge. In the meantime, remember to listen for filler words, pause between sentences, and practice, practice, practice.