Controlling Verbal Fillers

How to make your stallers and redundancies not so much of a problem

Controlling Verbal Fillers

Everyone uses verbal fillers so none of us should get too hot under the collar when we hear them. The problem is we don’t like hearing the fillers we don’t use. For instance, the grandfather who ends his sentences with ‘as it were’ won’t mind if another chap does similar, but he will get irritated by his granddaughter who starts almost all of her sentences with ‘so.’

For me, there are two types of fillers: 1, verbal stallers such as err, um, you know and 2: redundancies such as like, actually, so, basically....

Too many, err, verbal, erm, stallers become a problem because they interrupt the flow of a speaker’s contribution and, in some cases, they give the impression that the speaker isn’t completely sure of what they’re saying - which is never a good thing.  

Redundancies irritate listeners because they sense they’re an affectation. For the speaker, the use of the redundancy might have been an affectation originally - he or she wanted to fit in with a particular group so they decided that chucking around a few ‘likes’ might help - but then it became a habit, and habits are hard to shake. The other problem with redundancies, well the clue’s in the name, is that these words don’t add any value to the sentence; they’re dead communication weights that can - and should - go.   

If you find you use a lot of the stalling sounds, you’re doing so because you’re pausing to think and want to signal to the listener that you’ve not finished speaking, so you err until you’re ready with your next sentence. To combat this, think silently. Put your head down as you’re thinking and this will tell the listener that you’ve not finished and aren’t ready for them to come in yet.  

If you’re addressing a diverse audience or one that you feel is socially or professionally quite different to you, then be aware of your redundancies beforehand. Consider which words might get up your audience’s nose, and refrain from using them. Older audiences feel insulted if the speaker says ‘basically’ too often - ‘We’re not stupid!’ it wants to scream while educated audiences don’t like the misuse of the word ‘literally’, especially if it happens every other sentence.

And sometimes you need to stop using redundancies so your message is clear. If the Hadrian 800 is the newest design of security gate that your company offers, then saying 'the Hadrian 800 is, err, like, the newest design of security gate’ could confuse listeners. Some, especially if English isn’t their first language, may now be thinking, ‘What is this newest design of security gate that the Hadrian 800 is like?’ 

I tackle the causes and effects of mumbling comprehensively in my Using Your Voice Effectively workshop. So if you manage a team that isn't always clearly understood vocally, then aspects of the workshop will really help. 

If you enjoyed this article, then maybe try some of my other blog posts.

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