6 ways to stop saying ‘uh,’ ‘you know’ and other word fillers

Get a friend to count your “ums.” Pause and think. Prepare. After all, uncertainty in speech undermines your credibility.

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Maybe you’ve felt this way: You listen to a recording of your interview with that employee of the month or hear yourself on a radio newscast, and your every utterance grates like nails on a chalkboard.

It’s not just the weird sound of your voice when it originates from outside your head (though there’s that, too). It’s the “uhs” and “ums” that litter your speech, the “you knows” and “likes,” the insecure “right?” that is favored in PR circles, as if you were desperate for approval. (Right?)

It drives me nuts when I transcribe interviews to hear how many of my questions begin with a variation of, “Well, you know, um, like…” Furthermore, if you’re prone to swearing, you’re probably also doing that far more than you realize.

If it’s any comfort, we stand in good company. President Barack Obama is recognized as a gifted orator, but as David Letterman noted as far back as 2008, he does say “uh” a lot in interviews. (Amusingly, in a segment on the topic, the first word out of Letterman’s mouth is “uh.”)

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