Here’s how you can sound smart even if you use ‘uhm’ and ‘like’

We all believe the following to be true:

Using ‘uhm… mmm… uh…’ makes it sound like you’re unprepared. To most, it’s a sign that you don’t know what to say precisely because you have no confidence in what you’re saying. It is also believed that it is a tell-tale sign that the speaker is stumbling over their words because they’re blatantly making things up on the spot, i.e. lying.

The most unliked and infamous filler – ‘like’ – is said to make you sound dreadfully unintelligent — an idea reinforced by hundreds of demeaning memes.

However, take a minute to ponder this:

Everyone uses filler words. It’s totally a natural behaviour. Have you ever tried to, like, not use these ‘filler’ words? The reason you find it so hard to do so is because, according to research, we all use these types of fillers (on average) every five seconds or twice out of every hundred words. In fact, ‘disfluency’ is common to all languages: Swedish, Spanish, Hebrew, Zulu, English. If you know someone that hasn’t ever used linguistic space-fillers in their life, please email Guinness World Records immediately!

Since there’s barely a way in which we can escape the use of these interjections, the key, as suggested by Susmita Baral, is to use filler words smartly. These words aren’t intrinsically bad, it actually comes down to the way it’s used. And it is possible to use them competently, thoughtfully and in a way that allows you to better connect with your audience.

It’s imperative that you are cognizant of where you use these words in your sentences. It’s all about knowing which filler words to use, using them in moderation and in the most appropriate frequency. Baral further suggests that you use “I mean,” and “like” in favour of “uhm” and “er” as people using non-word sounds are judged a lot more harshly than those using actual words. Once you realise that it’s more about the placement of the filler words, the smarter you’ll sound when using them.

Typically, fillers are used in the beginning and in the middle of sentences.

• Rather use fillers in the middle of the sentence
They’re bound to be less obvious and distracting this way.

• To practice, you can ask your friends to clap every time you use a filler at the beginning of a sentence.
This will make you more aware of your usage patterns and help you fight the habit of using them. This could be a fun team activity in meetings too.

• Instead of using a filler word, try a short pause instead.
Pauses are said to be more dramatic and impact how others perceive us.

Also, if ever someone tries to ridicule you for sounding incompetent or inarticulate for using too many likes and uhms in a sentence, throw this piece of well-researched information at your ignorant accuser:

– fillers help clean up your speech
– using fillers makes you conscientious
– fillers indicate thoughtfulness
– using fillers means your aim is to be understood better
– using fillers means you want to convey your opinion carefully, diligently, and accurately.

Career Advice

Leave a Reply