How to stop saying "um", "ah" and "you know". (2023)


When you're feeling confused while speaking, whether you're nervous, distracted, or unsure of what's coming next, it's easy to resort to filler words like "um," "ah," or "you know." These words can become crutches that reduce our credibility and damage our message. To remove these words from your speech, replace them with pauses. To train yourself for it, follow these three steps. First, identify your supporting words and connect them to an action. For example, every time you find yourself enjoying it, touch your leg. After noticing your filler words trying to escape your lips, you begin to force yourself to remain silent. Finally, practice more than you think you should. The best prep-performance ratio is one hour of practice for every minute of presentation.

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You know.


(Video) How to Stop Saying "Um" and "Ah" | Public Speaking

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When we're not sure how to speak, if we're nervous, distracted, or unsure of what's coming, it's easy to rely on filler words. This can give us a moment to collect our thoughts before moving on, and in some cases can be a useful cue for the audience to pay special attention to what comes next. But if we use them too much, they become what academics call crutches.liquids– that reduce our credibility and damage our message.

Using research that spans behavioral science, AI, and data, the people science company I lead canQuantified Communication, found that the ideal frequency is about one fill per minute, but the average speaker uses five fills per minute, or one every 12 seconds.

So let's see what the data tells us about supporting words: how they undermine speaker impact, and how we can remove them from our vocabulary.

The problem with crutch words

We know it's hard to pay attention to a speaker when one word in three is noise, but it can be hard to pinpoint how these verbal crutches affect our experience. We analyzed more than 4,000 examples of spoken communication in our database to determine how much speakers trust filler words and how these words affect how they are perceived by the audience. While we found that excessive use of padding can negatively affect audiences in many ways, three critical factors are significantly negatively correlated with excessive use of padding.

  1. To get your message across effectively, you need to keep your audience engaged. If you use excessive amounts of padding, your audience is less likely to hang on to your every word because the padding gets in the way of the emotional stories or fascinating research you're trying to share.
  1. Audiences want to believe that you act and speak naturally, just as you would in a face-to-face conversation. While most people naturally use fillers in casual conversation, talking about fillers into a microphone distracts from your main personality and makes you appear nervous, absent-minded, or disinterested instead of authentic.
  1. If you want your audience to accept your message, you need to make it clear, logical, and easy to understand. Unfortunately, filtering out the supporting words to capture the important parts requires more cognitive effort than the audience is willing to do. Too much padding will likely mean they'll move away in favor of a simpler cognitive task, like thinking through their to-do lists.

Why is our language not fluent?Studies suggest yes.that we verbalize hesitation because we have been conditioned to fill in the blank even when we have nothing to say. For example, we use "um" and "ah" to stay at "conversational level" while planning what to say next, with "ah" indicating a short delay and "um" indicating a longer delay.

(Video) How to Avoid Filler Words

To eliminate crutch words, embrace the pause.

The good news is that you can turn this weakness into a strength by replacing the fills with breaks.

search suggestionsthat most conversations consist of short (0.20 seconds), medium (0.60 seconds), and long (more than 1 second) pauses. Great speakers often pause for two to three seconds or even longer. Our phonetic data shows that the average speaker only uses 3.5 pauses per minute, and that's not enough.

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This is understandable. Breaks are not easy to accept. For many speakers, even the shortest pause can feel like endless silence. This is because we tend to think faster than we speak. According to our research, the average professional speaks at a rate of 150 words per minute. Still,According to a study from the University of Missouri, we're thinking 400 wpm (and depending on who you ask, the rate can be as high as 1500 wpm).

(Video) How to Stop Saying "Um", "Like", and "You Know"

Because of this discrepancy, your perception of time when giving a speech is often distorted, and what seems like an eternity to you is actually only seconds to your audience.

Regardless of how they may initially appear, well-placed pauses make you appear calm and in control and help you in three ways:

  • Gather your thoughts:When you lose your train of thought, a break gives you time to get back on track. As long as the pause isn't too long (no more than five seconds), the audience won't blame you.
  • Calm your nerves:Pausing before starting a speech is especially important for people who fear public speaking, as it helps calm their nerves. The tactic is also useful in the middle of a speech. If you're getting nervous, take a short break to take a deep breath (as long as it's not audible or obvious) and restart.
  • Create tension:Pauses are not always a defensive tactic. Strategically placed silence can create tension, emphasize a point, or give the audience time to absorb an important idea.

Like filler words, pauses give you a chance to pause and figure out what comes next. However, a pause makes you sound confident and in control, while overused filler words distract you and make you look like you don't know what to say.

Three steps to silence crutch words

The first step in changing any habit, whether it's nail biting or adding "you know" to every sentence, is awareness. To identify your keywords, record a video recording or review a transcript of your last lecture and determine which voice you trust the most. Once you get to know them, you are likely to hear these words in your everyday communication. Combine your crutch words with small actions. For example, every time you find yourself enjoying it, touch your leg. Or ask a close family member or friend to monitor your filler words and get their attention with a clap or snap.

Once you become aware of your filler words as they try to escape your lips, it begins to force you into silence. To practice, make a video to record and talk about what you did from the beginning to the end of the day. Practice using pauses instead of filler words when recalling events.

Finally, I cannot stress enough the importance of preparation. Nerves are one of the main reasons people abuse voice fillers. The less prepared you are, the more nervous you'll be, likely causing you to talk too fast, stumbling over words and forgetting what's coming next. So practice. Half,the ideal ratiopresentation preparation is one hour of practice for every minute of presentation, but at leastDr. Trey Guinn, one of our communication experts, recommends that speakers complete at least three full passes before performing in front of an audience.

Used sparingly and effectively, filler words can make your audience engage with you more, give them time to breathe, and emphasize important points. This is why Google has included padding in the latest version of GoogleKI-wizard, duplex. But when they become catch words used out of nervousness or lack of preparation, they damage your credibility. As you prepare for your next presentation, identify the words you trust the most and practice avoiding them. So next time you're in front of an audience, use silence to collect your thoughts instead of filling the air with noise.

(Video) How to Stop Saying "Um" & "You Know" | Good Manners


How do I train myself to stop saying UM? ›

Every time you catch yourself saying “like,” for example, tap your leg. Or have a family member or close friend monitor your filler words and bring your attention to them with a clap or snap. Next, once you've become cognizant of your filler words as they try to escape your lips, begin forcing yourself to be silent.

How do you get rid of AH in a speech? ›

By physically closing your mouth to breathe during a presentation, you stop yourself from using a filler. That deep breathing also gives more power and impact to your next point. Practice the power of the pause. Many times, we feel uncomfortable with silence during our presentation.

Why do I say uh so much when talking? ›

Um's and uh's indicate that we're not as confident about what we're about to say. When asked a question, people use more filler before responding when they're less sure they have the right answer (and are in fact more likely to get the answer wrong).

How do you stop umms and ahhs? ›

Slowing down your rate of speaking will help your brain keep up, and will help you feel less rushed and panicked when you're trying to put your words together. That, in turn, will help those words come more easily, and you'll find that the ums and ahs will dwindle away.

How do I overcome a tendency to say um you know and uh? ›

  1. 6 ways to stop saying 'uh,' 'you know' and other word fillers.
  2. Get the help of an "uh" counter. ...
  3. Record yourself. ...
  4. Do your homework. ...
  5. Pause, think, answer. ...
  6. Slow down. ...
  7. Tell great stories.

Why do I say um before every sentence? ›

We say um to fill what we think is uncomfortable silence.

It happens in formal settings and everyday conversation. “Um” is an attempt to avoid silence. If a joke lands poorly and we keep talking, perhaps the audience won't be able to tell that no one laughed.

What causes people to use filler words? ›

Primary causes of fillers include nervousness/speaking too quickly, inadequate preparation time, and infrequently used words that are difficult for the speaker to remember while presenting.

Why do I always use filler words? ›

If you find yourself using too many filler words when speaking, it could be a sign of social anxiety or glossophobia (fear of public speaking). One remedy is to slow down your speech, both to give you extra time to think and to make the conversation more relaxed.

How do you reduce ah? ›

  1. Think Before You Speak. In most English-speaking countries, we tend to think as we speak. ...
  2. Slow Down. Many people who use fillers tend to speak fast, which causes “um's” and “ah's” to increase. ...
  3. Build Pauses in Your Speech. ...
  4. Drink Water. ...
  5. Compartmentalize Your Speech.
Sep 28, 2017

What is it called when you say UM in a speech? ›

Vocal disfluencies, commonly described as filler words, are a common point of contention in public speaking. Some people disparage them as weak and hesitant, and others defend them as authentic and genuine. We all know about um, ah, and like.

Is over talking a mental illness? ›

That said, various forms of excessive talking can show up as a symptom of some mental health conditions: Pressured speech often happens as part of manic or hypomanic episodes. Disorganized speech can show up as a key symptom of schizophrenia and other disorders of psychosis, along with schizotypal personality disorder.

What can I replace UM with? ›

Instead of saying “um” say “moving on,” or “why don't we talk about,” or “another important point is…” When you start applying this lesson, you'll feel a bit of a fake, but as you practice using these transitional phrases, they will start to sound more natural.

What causes a person to talk a lot? ›

There are several reasons why someone might talk excessively. It might be due to nerves, excitement, a desire to connect with others, or simply because he is the only person familiar with a subject at a social gathering. Sometimes, someone takes over the conversation and prevents others from speaking.

Is Okay a filler word? ›

"A filler word is an apparently meaningless word, phrase, or sound that marks a pause or hesitation in speech. Also known as a pause filler or hesitation form. Some of the common filler words in English are um, uh, er, ah, like, okay, right, and you know.

How do you sound confident when you aren t? ›

7 Ways to Appear Confident (When You're Really Not)
  1. Stand tall. Take up space by standing tall. ...
  2. Make eye contact. ...
  3. Don't fidget. ...
  4. Speak slowly and clearly. ...
  5. Allow silences. ...
  6. Keep your hands visible. ...
  7. Take big steps.
Aug 6, 2015

Is it normal to say um a lot? ›

According to Cohen, people around the globe are constantly using filler words, making it a “pervasive habit.” Despite this, filler words typically have a bad rep. Overusing the word like, for example, stereotypically gives off an airhead vibe, while saying uh and um can make you seem hesitant, insecure or unconfident.

Is it unprofessional to say um? ›

Used sparingly, there's nothing wrong with filler words. When you use them excessively, however, they can detract from your confidence and credibility. Imagine presenting a strong recommendation to your board of directors and using um in between every word; the constant fillers would undermine your message.

What is the most common filler word? ›

Filler words are also known as vocal disfluencies or hesitations. The most common filler words in speech are like "um", "ah," "like", and "you know." The most common filler phrases in writing are "Needless to say," "in my humble opinion," "for what it's worth," "basically," and "simply."

Do liars use filler words? ›

Liars need time to construct believable answers. To gain extra time, liars often use Word Fillers such as "umm," "ah," and "uh huh" before responding.

What are filler words when talking? ›

Filler words in speaking

Filler words allow speakers time to pause and consider what to say next. Used as an alternative to silence, filler words let the listener know that you have more to say, even if you need a moment before you continue.

What are annoying filler words? ›

Filler Words Are Annoying

Some common examples are just, probably, really, and very. There are also phrases like to make a long story short, needless to say, and to be honest, not to mention the inimitable whatever.

What is uptalk and why is it unprofessional? ›

Using upspeak in your interactions with colleagues and managers may come across as unprofessional in a workplace environment. The general view toward uptalk is that it lacks conviction and assertiveness, so increasing your tone at the end of a sentence can lead your colleagues to doubt what you're saying.

What is excessive talking disorder? ›

Logorrhea is characterized by the constant need to talk. Occasionally, patients with logorrhea may produce speech with normal prosody and a slightly fast speech rate.

Why do I sound weird when I talk? ›

Many things can cause vocal cord inflammation and swelling. These include surgery, respiratory illness or allergies, GERD, some medicines, exposure to certain chemicals, smoking, alcohol abuse, and vocal abuse. Nerve problems. Certain health conditions can affect the nerves that control the vocal cords.

How long will an Ah last? ›

It just means amp-hours. 1 Ah is a current of 1 amp running for 1 hour. Example: How long will a 100 Ah (amp-hour) battery last if we hook it up to a 1 Ah electric device? Well, battery capacity = 100 Ah, load current = 1 A, thus such a battery will last for 100 Ah / 1 A = 100 hours.

What does higher Ah mean? ›

In general, higher amp hours mean more runtime and higher voltage means more power.

Does Ah make a difference? ›

In a broader sense, the amp hour rating does tell us a little bit about the battery's capacity. For instance, a battery with a 10 Ah rating will last twice as long as a battery with a 5 Ah rating when used under similar conditions, but it does not mean that it will actually last 10 full hours.

What is a narcissistic conversationalist? ›

How about you? The term “conversational narcissist” was coined by sociologist Charles Derber who describes the trait of consistently turning a conversation back to yourself. A balanced conversation involves both sides, but conversational narcissists tend to keep the focus on themselves.

What is it called when a person can't stop talking? ›

If someone's always mouthing off and just can't shut up, they've got logorrhea, a pathological inability to stop talking. Sounds better than "loudmouth." As its sound suggests, logorrhea is related to diarrhea — an inability to stop something far more unpleasant from flowing.

How do I stop rambling? ›

Stop Rambling in Meetings — and Start Getting Your Message Across
  1. Measure exactly how much you're talking. Take time to reflect after meetings. ...
  2. Consider using other ways to share your ideas. ...
  3. Practice compressing your thoughts. ...
  4. Build in pauses. ...
  5. Ask for help.
May 20, 2022

Why are quiet people smarter? ›

Quiet people have stronger brains because they take time to reflect. The best thing you can do for your brain is to give it a break and allow it to soak up what's around you. According to AARP Magazine, being quiet is actually good for your brain health -- because it gives your mind a chance to wander and reflect.

What mental illness causes you to talk to yourself? ›

Self-talk can be a symptom of a number of mental illnesses. It can be a sign of an anxiety disorder, depression, PTSD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. More severe mental illnesses associated with self-talk include schizophrenia and psychosis.

Do insecure people talk too much? ›

Talking too much, or not talking at all, is a telltale sign of insecurity,” says Wood. “Insecure people are self-focused rather than connection-focused, so they don't pick on normal conversational cues.

What does it mean when someone says um a lot? ›

We say um to fill what we think is uncomfortable silence.

It happens in formal settings and everyday conversation. “Um” is an attempt to avoid silence. If a joke lands poorly and we keep talking, perhaps the audience won't be able to tell that no one laughed.

What words can I use instead of UM? ›

Instead of saying “um” say “moving on,” or “why don't we talk about,” or “another important point is…” When you start applying this lesson, you'll feel a bit of a fake, but as you practice using these transitional phrases, they will start to sound more natural.

Why do people Um so much? ›

Why do people say um? Not because they are nervous. Scholarly studies of the word reveal that the use of um does not correlate with anxiousness or any particular personality traits. Rather, um is used to signal an upcoming pause—usually uh for a short pause and um for a longer pause.

What are filler words lying? ›

Key points. Words such as "um" and "uh" indicate cognitive load, which liars often experience. Liars tend to use the phrase "I mean" to close the door to contrary opinions, ideas, and additional information.

What are words that end with uck? ›

  • stuck.
  • truck.
  • chuck.
  • pluck.
  • snuck.
  • shuck.
  • cluck.
  • amuck.

What do Japanese people say instead of UM? ›

えーと — “Eeto” can also be written as えっと. This filler word is probably the most common one in Japanese. It's essentially a Japanese version of “uhh” or “umm.” えーと will commonly be heard or seen at random parts of a sentence.

Is saying um a lot stuttering? ›

Individuals who stutter may use um often for several reasons. First, as um is a filler word, it is used to buy time when speaking. Individuals who stutter may need to buy time as they are searching for words with sounds that are easier to say.

Is um a filler word? ›

Fillers range from repetitive sounds — such as uh, um, eh, hmm — and proper catchwords or discourse markers such as you know, like, anyway, just. As parts of speech, there is no exhaustive list of filler words as they continue to evolve and weave into people's speech.

How do you break the UM habit? ›

Four Ways to Stop Saying "Um" And Other Filler Words
  1. Hear Yourself Using Filler Words. If you listen to a recording of a conference call where you regularly say “Um,” you will have a natural urge to cringe. ...
  2. Chunk Your Information. ...
  3. Make Eye Contact. ...
  4. Pre-plan Your Transitions.
Dec 17, 2014

Why do I talk more than I listen? ›

One of the reasons we'd rather talk than listen is that if our minds are filled to capacity and we listen, we run the risk of overloading our brain's circuits, forgetting things we're trying to remember and worse, feeling pressured to not just listen but take on the responsibility for dealing with or fixing whatever ...

Why does everyone always talk over me? ›

If everyone from particular group always talks over you it doesn't necessarily mean they dislike or don't respect you. Your group conversation style may just be out of sync with theirs. Longer term you could always choose to steer clear of these types of groups, though it never hurts to know how to manage in them.


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