Don’t Let Verbal Fillers Discount Your Message


There are different schools of thought about using verbal fillers: “ums”; “ahhs”; “like”; “you know”; “whatever” etc. They range from the clicker at Toastmasters, counting and reporting the number used, to a recent commentary on NPR which said that professional storytellers often use these speech dis-fluencies to add emphasis. When inserted to create directed focus, the listener pays more attention to the word right after it. It also makes the story more immediate and real, and less “memorized”.   

Abusing verbal fillers in a college/scholarship/job interview impacts their impression of you.  Remember, if you go there/get the award/are hired, you will now represent them to the outside world, to fellow alumni/grantors of the funding/their customers.

It is unlikely you will win the opportunity if the following happen too often:

1. You are absolutely inarticulate. Huh? You haven’t respected the other person enough to think before you speak. You are assembling your thoughts as you go along and not only that, you demand to hold the floor –saving your place with “uhhhhh.”

2. You remind them “like” of their “um” possibly “ah” annoying “ahhh” young teen-in middle school- son or daughter or “like” “whatever”.

3. “You know.” I recently shared a chuckle with a fellow audience member when this was said over 26 times (of course I counted) in the first 10 minutes of a “how my career path developed” presentation by a very successful executive whose job involved being persuasive. It finally disappeared when the story got to the present job. Think of it, she was sharing the highlights of her life story, just as you do in any interview.  Remember if they knew, they wouldn’t be asking the question, or listening to you would be redundant!
Present your best self by being authentic and enthusiastically showing your own unique personality; open doors by winning with words.

Article by Peggy Wallace, founder, Making Conversation

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