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How to Reduce “Um’s” and “Ah’s” (Fillers) When Speaking

How to reduce your speech fillers.

Key points

  • Fillers can be a poor communication habit but are commonly used when someone is nervous.
  • Thinking before you speak, and slowing down, are some of the ways to help reduce fillers.
  • Drinking water, building pauses into a speech, and compartmentalizing speech can also help.
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Do you find yourself using too many “um’s” and “ah’s” in presentations, meetings, and/or in conversational situations? These fillers are commonly a poor communication habit. They distract the listener and can make you appear less thoughtful and articulate.

We tend to use fillers when we’re nervous and uncertain, or when our minds are racing so rapidly that we struggle to organize our thoughts.

Below are five tips for reducing your fillers, with references to my publications: “Confident Communication at the Workplace," and “Ten Tips for Presentation Confidence and Reducing Nervousness.”

1. Think Before You Speak

In most English-speaking countries, we tend to think as we speak. This allows greater spontaneity, but often at the expense of some coherency. We use fillers as attempts to “catch up" with our thoughts.

An easy way to reduce fillers is to think before you speak. When you find yourself momentarily at a loss for words, instead of uttering “um,” and “ah,” simply say “let me compose my thoughts for a minute,” or “give me a moment, I want to say this clearly.” Buy yourself time to think before you speak to reduce fillers and increase thoughtful communication.

2. Slow Down

Many people who use fillers tend to speak fast, which causes “um’s” and “ah’s” to increase. An effective way to lessen fillers is simply to slow down, so you can speak more clearly.

3. Build Pauses in Your Speech

Whenever possible, build pauses into your presentations and/or communications to give yourself breaks and to catch your thoughts. If you’re presenting with PowerPoint, deliberately pause for a moment between slides to compose your next thought. In conversational communication, pauses can be questions such as “what do you think?” or “you know what I mean?”

4. Drink Water

Another easy way to build pauses is to have bottled water with you as you speak. Sipping water periodically as you talk can naturally reduce fillers. Avoid caffeinated beverages, which may induce nervousness and increase your “um’s” and “ah’s.”

5. Compartmentalize Your Speech

For example, instead of talking about what you’re currently working on in no particular order, say instead: "I’m working on three tasks right now. First, ... Second, … Third, …" Compartmentalization allows for more organized thought, which improves clearer speech and communication.

Source: niprestondotcom

To learn more tips on how to communicate effectively, see my publications (click on titles): “Confident Communication at the Workplace," and “Ten Tips for Presentation Confidence and Reducing Nervousness.”

© 2017 by Preston C. Ni. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright violation may subject the violator to legal prosecution.