“Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man!”
Jeff Bridges’ quip from The Big Lebowski may be one of the most quoted lines from the 1998 cult classic.
But if your speech is filled with “you knows” and “likes,” you’re more likely to be dismissed than be quoted. So, if you’re eager to reduce your “ahs” and “ers,” here are the three types of filler word patterns, along with some simple solutions.
1. Word/sound repeats
Word/sound repeats are the most difficult to reduce because you need to integrate three functional skills. First, you have to speak in short sentences. Then, you have to breathe between each short sentence. And finally, you have to let your sound flow through each sentence as if it was all one word.
For example, think of “We need to drive sales” as “Weneedtodrivesales.” By remembering to breathe and keep all your sounds connected, you will definitely reduce your word/sound repeats.
Structural filler-word patterns are triggered because of the way you structure your sentences. If you speak in long, complex sentences, you will inevitably take random breaks just because you need to get air or because you get lost in your train of thought.
You can cut down on structural filler-word patterns by speaking in shorter sentences. Instead of “We will meet our sales goals, provide top-notch customer service, and continue our tradition of innovation,” break up the sentence like this: We will meet our sales goals. We will provide top-notch customer service. We will continue our tradition of innovation.”
When you not only speak in short sentences but also add rhythm by repeating key words, you get a double fluency boost.
Finally, transitional filler-word patterns are those that occur when you transition from thought to thought. To buy thinking time, you naturally add “ahs” and “ers.”
To reduce your “ahs” and “ers” at these transition points, you need to use oral bullet points. Using oral bullet points gives you time to think about what you’re going to say while reinforcing your main point.
For example, if you are explaining your reasons for choosing to push back the launch of a product, say, “One of the reasons for the delay is…” Then, “Another one of the reasons for the delay is” … and so on. Make sure to pause and count “one, two” in your head between each reason. If you start making this a habit, you will see a dramatic drop in your transitional filler word patterns.
So now you have the remedies. By implementing these solutions every day, you will speak with flow, fluency and definitely fewer “ahs” and “ers.”