AS THE SHOW HOST FOR “THE PUBLIC SPEAKER: QUICK AND DIRTY Tips for Improving Your Communication Skills,“ I regularly receive questions from my listeners. Perhaps the most commonly asked question goes like this …
Here’s how I always respond: You know, like, OMG! Although it’s difficult to com-
pletely rid yourself of “credibility killers” in your speech (e.g., like, so, you know, right,
uh, ah), it’s actually pretty easy to reduce them.
Technically, they are called disfluencies. According to Wikipedia, “disfluencies include
any of various breaks, irregularities, or utterances … words and sentences that are cut
off mid-utterance, phrases that are restarted or repeated … grunts or unrecognizable
utterances occurring as ‘fillers.’”
BY LISA B. MARSHALL
Um … you are not alone!
For those with trouble is in this area, you are not alone. Spontaneous conversation is
notoriously disfluent. In fact, according to researchers, disfluencies sometimes represent up
to about 20% of the “words” in everyday conversation. In fact, if you listen to President
Barack Obama when he is “off teleprompter,” you’ll notice that he struggles with this, too.
Unfortunately, excessive use of filler words can have a significant negative impact
on listeners. In 2009, when Caroline Kennedy announced her candidacy for Senator
of New York, she used many “ums” and “ahs” during one particular interview with the
New York Times, and she said “y’know” 139 times. You probably saw the You Tube video
where she was mocked with a buzzer — 30 times in less than two-and-a-half minutes!
Research suggests that utterances of “ah” and “um” in spontaneous conversation
signal an impending pause. However, when you are in front of an audience, long
pauses in your speech give the impression that you are unprepared. Which, of course,
is a bad thing.