Here are some ideas for avoiding those fillers:
- Pause before you speak. Just take a breath, think, and don't rush to fill the empty space. This is hard, because we're programmed to think that saying nothing suggests we're stupid. A brief pause is acceptable.
- Use a verbal pause, such as "well," or "that's a good question," or "let me see, now." All of these phrases serve the same purpose of buying you a bit of time when coming up with your response.
- Think ahead to the end of your thought so that you know where the sentence is taking you. Most of our "fillers" are used because we're still formulating how to end the sentence. Be proactive in where you're going with your message. Think all the way to the end and then finish your thought.
- Use "and" and "so" instead of "um" or "ah." Try using them when you need a second or two to re-frame your thinking.
When I was in a Toastmasters club we used to have someone who counted the "ums" and "ahs." Find your own "ah" counter and see if he or she will help you get over this bad habit.
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