Are You Using Fillers?

Picture this scene with me. You prepare your research on the prospective decision maker you'll be meeting today. You review your notes, polish your shoes and wear a power business suit. The receptionist knows you are coming and welcomes you with a smile. You are excited about the possibilities as you are ushered into the meeting room. The decision maker that greets you is polished and has a firm handshake. Everything is looking up until the conversation starts and every other word out of his mouth is "um". Crash and burn.

When I was in college, my sorority sisters and I coined a phrase - "great hatred". We used it whenever we had disdain for something. That said, I have great hatred for "um". I find it hard to follow a conversation and stay focused when the person with whom I'm speaking keeps saying "um".

Very often, people use words like "um", "ah", "well" or "and" as space fillers in a conversation. It's like a bridge from one sentence to the next. However, it is an unnecessary bridge. Sometimes people use them when they don't know what to say next or when they lose their train of thought. It is perfectly acceptable to leave a few seconds of quiet time between sentences.

First impressions are lasting. Not only is what you say important, so too is how you say it. If you want to be remembered and respected as an entrepreneur, become a master at speaking properly.

Make it a habit to remove fillers from your vocabulary. Start right now to change the way you speak. New habits can be formed in as little as 21 days. Here are a few suggestions on how to get started:

  • Try listening to what you say throughout the day.
  • Use a digital recorder to record a planned speech or team meeting. You'll be surprised what you learn about yourself.
  • Train your brain to recognize the times when you use fillers and then practice silence during those times when you feel a need to fill the space.
  • Ask a friend to observe your conversations and make note of your use of fillers.
  • Place a rubber band on your wrist and snap the rubber band each time you catch yourself using a filler.
  • Take time to properly prepare for meetings, speeches and sales calls.
If you need something more structured, you may want to consider joining Toastmasters or taking a Dale Carnegie course. Here's to the end of fillers!